Despite a loss of $24,000 in state Department of Transportation funding, Grovetown and Columbia County officials are determined to build sidewalks near Grovetown Middle School.
"We are going to get together and join forces and do the sidewalks ourselves without getting any funds from the state," said Grovetown Mayor Dennis Trudeau.
The sidewalks are estimated to cost $64,000, including approximately 2,500 square feet of sidewalk and bridge to cover the area from the school to Adams Lane at the city limits.
The need for the improvement was brought to public attention by the school's principal, Carolyn Fries, who sent a letter home to parents. She said children walking to school along Harlem-Grovetown Road in the early morning are not easily visible and in danger because they have to walk on the shoulder of the road.
At a recent meeting, the Grovetown City Council approved $30,000 for the project, adding to $12,000 from the county and $24,000 from the Georgia Department of Transportation, which was left over from the city's greenway project.
"I think when they told the city that they would give them money, they had not completely reviewed the plans at that time," said Ronnie Hutto, the county preconstruction engineer. "They realized later that they had omitted some items and that it looked like (the greenway project) would overrun, so they would not have any money. We are trying to work something out as we speak."
The county has approached the Columbia County Board of Education for assistance since some of the proposed sidewalk would be on school property. The groups still are discussing the specifics, but, according to Superintendent Tommy Price, the board will help.
"We cannot really get out on public property and make improvements," Price said. "I did tell them whatever amount of the sidewalk would actually connect to our property, then we would certainly look at what we could do to help there at that point. What we can do we are going to do."
The amount the board will commit to the project is expected to make up the shortfall. Despite the assistance, Price does not approve of children walking to school because buses are available for every child.
"Safety of children is important," Price said. "I did not want anyone to think we are creating a hazardous condition. We will bus every child. No one has to walk. We are willing to do our part on the sidewalk. We are going to do what we can do to help."
When final funding plans are set, the project will be put out for bid for a private contractor to install the sidewalks. Trudeau has no start date for the project, but knows when he would like to end it.
"It has got to be taken care of," Trudeau said. "We probably will not have it completed by the end of this school year, but it will be completed before school starts next year."
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