Selectboard approves sidewalk plowing request12/18/08

North Williston Road segment to be cleared

Dec. 18, 2008

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

The town will plow its newest recreation path this winter, but budget constraints could keep it clogged with snow in future years.

The Selectboard on Monday approved plowing the path on North Williston Road between U.S. 2 and Mountain View Road. The nearly mile-long stretch will cost $1,410 to plow this winter, according to Public Works Director Neil Boyden.

A petition signed by 132 people urged the town to keep the path “clear for use year-round for the general health, safety and well-being of all users.”

A handful of neighbors attended Monday’s meeting. Kerstin Hanson spoke on their behalf, saying that many North Williston Road residents were taken aback to learn plowing wasn’t automatic after construction of the path was completed this year.

“People were really surprised to learn that (plowing) was not part of the original plan,” she said. “As you know, North Williston Road is heavily traveled.”

The segment connects to other sidewalks and paths that access the school, library and Town Hall, Hanson said. And by plowing the path, the town will allow residents to walk and jog year-round while staying out of the traffic.

Town policy calls for plowing sidewalks and paths on a case-by-case basis. After residents request plowing for a specific segment, the Selectboard makes a decision based on seven criteria. They include cost, usage and whether the segment connects to other paths.

Under the policy, all requests are considered in December. If approved, the policy says plowing will not begin until the following winter.

But Boyden said in a memo that there is enough money in his existing budget to cover the modest cost of clearing North Williston Road this winter.

“Of all the paths owned by the Town I would estimate this segment of path has the second-most pedestrian activity,” he wrote in a memo. “The most heavily used path in town is the segment between Old Stage Road and Williston Road and around Williston Central School.”

The board agreed to plowing the North Williston Road stretch this winter but debated what to do in future years.

Town Manager Rick McGuire recommended that the board wait until the end of current discussions of the 2009-10 budget before deciding whether to fund plowing next winter.

Given the state of the economy and the resulting budget uncertainties, McGuire said the board may decide it wants to eliminate funding for plowing the North Williston Road segment — or even all the town’s sidewalks.

Jeff Fehrs, who has urged the town to freeze spending in the upcoming budget at the current year’s level, said it would be an “odd situation” to plow the North Williston path this winter but not next year.

Fellow board member Ted Kenney said the large number of vehicles along North Williston Road make plowing essential to keep pedestrians out of traffic.

“The thing that trumps it for me is the safety situation,” he said.

In the end, the board unanimously approved plowing for this winter. The board is scheduled to finalize the municipal budget and presumably decide whether to continue plowing the North Williston Road path and other segments by the end of January.

The town has about 20 miles of sidewalks and recreation paths but it only plows a small fraction of them.