Construction starts on rec path (9/17/09)

Easements granted for Mountain View segment

Sept. 17, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

With easements finally secured, work on a long-planned recreation path along Mountain View Road is expected to begin this week.

The company submitting the low bid, Jericho-based Dirt Tech, broke ground on a project that will run between North Williston and Old Stage roads.

Williston Public Works Director Neil Boyden said the final two property owners along the route granted easements for the recreation path last week.

The town has planned the project since voters approved a $2.6 million bond for recreation paths and sidewalks five years ago. Property owners reluctant to grant permission to run sidewalks and paths in front of their homes have in some cases slowed progress.

But Boyden said it would be unfair to blame the final two property owners who granted easements for the Mountain View path for the delay. He said it was just a matter of scheduling time with them to discuss the project.

“They weren’t holdouts, they just needed to be informed,” he said.

Common concerns expressed by property owners include privacy, drainage and the impact of construction on access to driveways.

The town, which has traditionally not paid property owners for sidewalk easements, instead tries to make accommodations, Boyden said. For the Mountain View Road project, the town is installing fences along some stretches to protect privacy and grading some other portions, allowing property owners to more easily mow areas adjacent to the path.

The town received a half-dozen bids to complete the Mountain View Road project, which will consist of a 6-foot-wide paved path about 4,000 feet long. Dirt Tech’s bid of $141,998 was more than $40,000 less than the next lowest bid.

The contract requires the company to finish the project by Nov. 10. If the deadline is missed, the town can impose a $500-a-day fine.

The Mountain View Road project is one of three to be funded entirely with voter-approved bonds. The others are along North Williston Road, from U.S. 2 to Mountain View Road, and on U.S. 2, from North Brownell Road to Taft Corners. The North Williston Road project has been completed, but parts of the U.S. 2 segment remain unfinished.

Boyden said there are a couple of reasons that construction of the bond-funded sidewalks and recreation paths have taken so long. One is the time is takes to file for and win permits. Another is the amount of legwork required to schedule meetings with the scores of property owners affected by the project, then get a written agreement from each.

He acknowledged that in some cases property owners have refused to grant easements because they don’t want a recreation path running through their yard. But mainly owners just want to be reassured that the path won’t unduly impact their property and their daily lives.

“Most folks we’ve dealt with are pretty civic-minded,” Boyden said. “It’s a public infrastructure improvement and they generally buy into it.”