Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 16, 2013

Safer way to school

The issue: Galveston’s two-year-old sidewalk project.

Our view: Officials must find the money to complete the work. If they do nothing, it still will cost the town $40,000 in engineering fees.

Nearly two-and-a-half years after a $220,000 Safe Routes to School grant was awarded, work still hasn’t begun on new sidewalks along two streets leading to Galveston Elementary School.

Officials say Maple and Woodland streets were identified as two of the best options to make the children’s journey to and from school less treacherous. Neither street has sidewalks, so the kids walking back and forth to school often walk on roadways. Even on these winter mornings when it’s still dark outside.

The town council last week discussed what steps need to be taken to move this project forward. But whatever is decided, it’s going to cost the town money.

The federal grant administered by the Indiana Department of Transportation was supposed to cover the complete cost of about 3,000 feet of new sidewalk. But material and labor prices increased last year, driving costs $121,000 above the $220,000 grant.

Preliminary engineering for the project was finished last year, but council members decided not to follow through. The $350,000 price tag was just too expensive.

After Marty Spees of Fleis and Vandenbrink Engineering told council members the town would have to repay the state $40,000 for the engineering costs, the time frame to accept that $350,000 bid had closed.

Spees told council members last week a rebid of the project could cost the town between $100,000 and $140,000 more than the $220,000 grant. INDOT is scheduled to accept a new bid in May.

Pat Gunnell, the town council president, said last week that council members haven’t decided where the additional funding will come from.

The Safe Routes to Schools projects have two purposes: They are designed to make those daily walks back and forth to school less dangerous. They are also designed to make the walks more likely.

Getting kids off the couch and exercising is an important goal in a time when the nation finds more and more kids struggling with their weight, and if children are using those sidewalks to walk back and forth to school, they might start using them at other times, too.

And, of course, there’s no rule that says the sidewalks must be used only by youngsters. More than a few adults could also use a bit of exercise.

We encourage Galveston officials to find the money to complete the sidewalk project. It will cost them $40,000 if they do nothing, and as much as $140,000 if they move ahead.

Sidewalks on Maple and Woodland streets will be of benefit to town residents of all ages.