Sidewalks and pedestrian and bicyclist safety were issues before Statesboro City Council when four members, with the mayor and one council member absent, held a relatively brief regular meeting Tuesday evening.
A $230,510 Georgia Department of Transportation grant will fund the majority of the cost of installing a sidewalk on East Main Street from Lester Road to the far side of Veterans Memorial Parkway, also known as the U.S. 301 Bypass. This will allow the city to use previously budgeted Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax dollars to install a sidewalk on other portions of East Main Street.
Currently there is no sidewalk along East Main from where it intersects Lester Road north of Statesboro High School to beyond bypass. But the street passes several apartment complexes and a church on its southern edge, where the sidewalk is planned.
The council in March approved applying for the GDOT Multimodal Safety and Access Grant. But city staff had little expectation of getting one, with about $2 million available for pedestrian and bicycling-related projects throughout Georgia, said City Engineer Brad Deal.
“So $2 million didn’t really seem like a whole lot of money for the entire state, but a couple of weeks ago we were pleasantly surprised to get a letter from GDOT,” Deal told the council Tuesday.
Because the grants come with an expectation that the local government will share in the cost, the grant is actually for $230,510 or 70 percent of the total, whichever is less.
The city originally had $350,000 in SPLOST revenue budgeted for the sidewalk from Lester Road to beyond the bypass. With the grant paying for most of that segment, the city can use saved SPLOST dollars to build additional sidewalk along East Main in the other direction, from Lester Road toward Packinghouse Road and Northside Drive, Deal said. So far, there is no sidewalk in that area either.
“This is going to allow us to put a good bit more sidewalk in than what we had originally planned on doing,” Deal said.
He recognized Assistant City Engineer David Campbell for preparing the successful grant application. The council members unanimously accepted, and literally applauded, the grant.
The city is acquiring right of way for the grant-funded sidewalk and will still need to take construction bids. That section, toward the bypass, could be installed this fall, Deal said after the meeting.
Sidewalk on East Main in the other phase, between Lester Road and Northside Drive, probably won’t be installed until 2018, he said.
A little later, Kristine Yager-Rushton, a resident of the Pine Cove neighborhood, spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting. Her topic was listed as “neighborhood sidewalks.”
“I’m here to ask you, as you go forth in truly making Statesboro one of America’s best communities, that we also address a need for more and better pedestrian walkways and bicycle lanes,” Yager-Rushton said. “The need is rising as we become an even larger community due to the university growing, businesses coming to Statesboro, and there are more people living here as a result who desire alternative forms of transportation and are more environmentally conscious.”
She also described incidents of motorists speeding and reacting aggressively in response to pedestrians and cyclists that have happened to a friend, to a colleague and to herself and her husband in residential areas. The incidents occurred on or around Park Avenue, Brannen Street, Wendwood Drive and Gentilly Road.
“Not only do we need more and better sidewalks, bicycle lanes and pathways, but also drivers need to be better educated that they have to share the road and give clearance,” Yager-Rushton said.
She cited a state law requiring drivers to give bicycles at least three feet of clearance when passing and called for increased police patrols with attention to cyclists’ and pedestrians’ safety.
Mayor Pro Tem
Mayor Pro Tempore Travis Chance, the District 5 council member, presided at Tuesday’s meeting in the absence of Mayor Jan Moore. Chance issued proclamations recognizing May 15-21 as National Police Week and May 21-27 as Public Works Week.
This was the first City Council meeting Moore has missed completely since taking office in January 2014.
She was in Atlanta attending an event hosted by the website network Georgia CEO on film and TV production in the state. Some legislators and other state politicians attended. Wednesday, Moore said she was interested in the workforce development potential this industry has for area youth, both as mayor and in her other job.
“At the end of the day, whether I’m serving as mayor or as vice president for economic development at Ogeechee Technical College, bringing jobs and opportunity to our area is of paramount importance, and this is a job sector that is growing exponentially in our state,” Moore said. “We need to position ourselves to be a part of it.”
District 1 Councilman Phil Boyum was also absent Tuesday, but four council members were present, and only three of the five are required for a quorum. After 37 minutes in open session, they met in closed session less than 10 minutes and did not take any action afterward.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.