Funds Approved For Church Hill Road Sidewalk Link

With Board of Finance approval July 14, and anticipated Legislative Council endorsement, top donors including Newtown’s Draper family, as well as town and borough of Newtown officials are poised to complete a critical link to a planned “Memorial Sidewalk” that supporters hope will eventually connect Main Street to the new Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Following the finance board action, the council is expected to take up and approve a special appropriation July 16 of $193,005 from the Sandy Hook Special Revenue Fund and designated donations made through the Parks and Recreation Department.

First Selectman Pat Llodra explained to the finance board Monday that shortly after 12/14, resident Dr Thomas Draper, who is also Newtown’s medical advisor and associate director of health, approached her with a vision to connect Sandy Hook School to the flagpole.

“He described it in that first meeting as a way to show that the community is connected and we are all one — we are part of Sandy Hook and Sandy Hook is part of the community,” Mrs Llodra said. She added that Dr Draper and his son Joseph are the current major donors.

The first key gap in the current linkage will connect existing sidewalks at Main Street and Church Hill Road with an existing sidewalk approximately 300 feet down Church Hill Road.

Mrs Llodra said the company that won the bid for the project will be ready to begin work this fall. The finance office confirmed the low bidder is LRM Landscape Contractors, which also played a significant role in completing much of the Sandy Hook Streetscape.

Deputy Director of Planning and Land Use Rob Sibley said in late July or early August, there will be a celebration to launch this first phase of the project, while promoting opportunities for individuals, commercial underwriters, and local groups to donate and sponsor some of the remaining gaps in the planned contiguous walkway.

“This project has a lot of partners, from the Draper family to the town and borough to the town engineer and public works director to the Parks and Recreation Department and director of land use,” Mr Sibley said.

He said the Church Hill-Main Street segment represents among the most challenging sections of the proposed memorial sidewalk, because it involves coordination among the Borough of Newtown, town agencies, utility companies that have service conduits in the area, and the state Department of Transportation because the project is occurring on a state roadway.

“There are a number of DOT standards we must comply with, as well as conditions imposed because the work will be part of the Main Street Historic District,” Mr Sibley continued. He said surveying is already in process to identify “nuances in the design stage” that must be addressed.

“But the proposal [from LRM] includes design and construction,” he said. “Usually a sidewalk installation has to simply conform to certain ADA specifications, local and state regulations. But for all the reasons we discussed, you can see this is not your typical sidewalk project.”

Fortunately, for future donors and underwriters, the land use official said, most of the remaining open links between existing sidewalk sections occur in relatively flat areas that will be less encumbered by utility conduits and design challenges.

“This first section involves a pretty good slope, retaining walls and utilities. I don’t think other sidewalk projects will involve as complicated a scope,” Mr Sibley said. He added that linking sidewalks between the flagpole and Sandy Hook School by the time the new facility is scheduled to open in late 2016 is “an accomplishable goal.”

“Because we already adopted a Town Sidewalk Plan,” he said, “we are only dealing with getting [financial underwriting] for the pieces that are missing, which understandably are the most difficult to accomplish.”

But he said from a planning standpoint, it is “necessary and correct to provide pedestrian access to the new school.”

According to documentation in the bid, the contractor is expected “to communicate with property owners, town and borough staff throughout the course of the project.”

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