Dalton Officials Address Sidewalk Repairs
DALTON,Mass. — Residents and elected officials agree that a majority of the town's sidewalks need repairs but are determining high priority areas.
The town has been discussing sidewalk repairs with residents since before the last town meeting where it was approved to add an additional $10,000 to the sidewalk repair budget.
The town should first focus its repairs on sidewalks near schools to improve student safety and high traffic areas, Select Board members said during its last meeting.
Everyone has a different idea of what sidewalks should be addressed first, Chair Joseph Diver said.
"It's kind of starting somewhere and then working our way through that," Diver said.
Highway Superintendent Edward "Bud" Hall has taken that into account a little bit because he considering the schools and high-traffic areas but an official study looking into pedestrian and traffic patterns has not been done.
Over the winter, he plans on generating a list of sidewalks in need of repair and coming up with a plan on how and when they should be addressed.
The Highway Department has started to repair the section of sidewalk between the two Craneville Elementary School entrances using blacktop to see if that material would be faster and cheaper, Hall said
Diver asked if the Highway Department can look into applying for a Safe Streets grant and leverage the funding for sidewalks near schools.
The state's Safe Streets grant is mostly for projects like bike lanes to protect pedestrians on the streets, so an application for the grant to cover sidewalk repairs may not be approved, Town Manager Tom Hutcheson said.
The Americans with Disabilities Act Committee echoed the Select Board's remarks during its meeting adding that the town needs to come up with a better communication system between residents and the Highway Department.
Although the town has money set aside every year to repair sidewalks, the department struggles to find the time to prioritize which sidewalks need to be repaired so a more consistent system is needed, ADA coordinator Alyssa Maschino said.
"Their system, what they have right now, it's obviously not working and it's kind of gotten to the point where it's pretty embarrassing to drive around town," ADA Committee member David Wasielewski said.
"There are more broken sidewalks than there are flat sidewalks based on my quick review just driving around the streets here."
Dalton's former building superintendent and ADA adviser Patrick Pettit said he totally agrees with Wasielewski that over the past years the sidewalks have had poor maintenance but now the town has someone (referring to Hall) in place working diligently to catch up.
"I think for me driving in here tonight, to already see a sidewalk torn up and being replaced I do see somebody that's in place that's going to work diligently on trying to help everybody out in the town," Pettit said.
"When it comes to roads and sidewalks there's a lot to it and I think the right person is in place and you just got to give it a little bit of time."
Committee members recommended that the town consider applying for a grant so it can implement a website or app, similar to Pittsfield's PittSMART system
This system would allow residents to inform Hall of any hazards on the road whether it's a repair request for a sidewalk, pothole, streetlight, or any other hazard that need to be taken care of.
"That would benefit Bud because Bud wants to make things right. He wants to make things right. He can only fix what he knows about … He didn't take the job lightly," committee member Lyn Clements said.
Unless Hall drives past a location and notices it is in need of repair, he is not going to know about it, she continued.
Maschino said she will put in a request that the Select Board looks into implementing a system like this.
Some committee members asked if they could look into applying for grant funding to help cover the cost of sidewalk repairs.
According to Hutcheson, the state does not generally give the town money for things that the town should already be taking care of themselves, Maschino said.
"My understanding is they were trying to get as many roads done as possible before working on the sidewalks," she said. "So, I don't think trying to apply for any sort of sidewalk grant is in our benefit right now. "
There are areas that do not have sidewalks where children walk home from school, so the town should consider installing sidewalks at those locations as well, committee members said.
Maschino said she will look into how to request the town install new sidewalks at these locations.