Sidewalk construction to start soon

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Bids for sidewalk construction along North Williston Road will bring the work in well under the original estimate – albeit for a scaled-back project.

The sidewalk will run between U.S. 2 and Mountain View Road. Essex-based Ormond Bushey & Sons Inc. last week submitted the low bid of $143,068. The town of Williston will award the contract after confirming the bid meets specifications.

The work was projected to cost $830,000. But that estimate was based on a much wider recreation path and included construction of a bridge.

The project was scaled back because of problems obtaining a state wetlands permit and the reluctance of homeowners along the route to grant easements through their front yards.

The town will construct roughly three-quarters of the 4,600 linear feet of sidewalk needed to complete the segment, hopefully by the end of November, said Williston Public Works Director Neil Boyden. He said the town plans to fill in the gaps next spring.

Boyden said he was “tickled to death” that the bids were so low. Even when the missing portions are factored in, he said, the completed project would cost less than anticipated.

The sidewalk is one of several segments to be funded through a $2.6 million bond approved by Williston voters in 2004. To date, only one small stretch has been completed along U.S. 2 near Blair Park.

Progress on all the segments has been slowed by residents’ reluctance to grant easements. On North Williston Road, many homeowners balked at plans for a 10-foot-wide recreation path that would have in some cases consumed much of their front yards.

To secure easements, the town agreed to reduce the width to 6 feet. But one property owner is still holding out, Boyden said. Another holdout agreed Monday to grant an easement.

The town must also win a state wetland permit before it can construct a replacement bridge along the sidewalk’s route near U.S. 2. The new structure will be stronger, allowing the town to use plows to clear snow from the sidewalk.

Boyden acknowledged the sidewalk will have gaps when the work that was bid on is finished. He said he pushed ahead with the project this year because earth-moving contractors are hungry for work and he expected to receive bargain-priced bids.

He said he is confident that the town will eventually receive a state permit allowing construction of the bridge. He also thinks the holdout homeowner will come around. If not, he said the town may detour that part of sidewalk into the right-of-way, the strip of land that runs between the edge of the road and private property.

The easement issue has also stalled other sidewalk projects around town. The bond was supposed to pay for sidewalks along Mountain View Road, U.S. 2, Vermont 2A and near the Meadow Run subdivision.