State grant funds were announced in 2017 to improve the sidewalk, shoulder and drainage along this stretch of road on Main Street in Southwest Harbor, but the town never voted on the local matching funds required. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Sidewalk goes to voters

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Two years after plans were announced for a new sidewalk on Main Street, from Apple Lane to The Village at Ocean’s End, voters will decide next month whether to spend up to $850,000 of town funds for the project.

Last week, the Board of Selectmen voted to put the project funding on the warrant for Town Meeting.

Don Lagrange, the town’s former manager, announced in March 2017 that the town had been awarded $498,500 in grant funds from the Maine Department of Transportation for upgrades to sidewalk construction along a 1,500-foot section of Main Street. At that time, the project had an estimated cost of $842,000, which would have meant a $343,500 matching commitment from the town.

Now, though, the estimated cost for the project has risen to about $1.25 million, and may require up to $850,000 in town funds.

“A lot of people had the understanding this had already been voted on,” Town Manager Justin VanDongen told selectmen April 2. “It had not.”

At the board’s April 9 meeting, VanDongen said he was concerned that if the town backed out of the project, the state would reallocate the money.

“It will hurt us when we ask for money in the future,” he said.

Selectman Ryan Donahue said the price increase is due to further engineering required by the state to deal with runoff drainage from nearby mountains.

“Even if we can build it for less, we can’t build it for less with what the state requires,” said VanDongen.

One resident noted that the sidewalk was needed for safety, adding that he’d had to escort children along the road due to heavy volumes of traffic.

Selectmen were concerned that Main Street itself along the stretch in question is in bad shape.

“We’re building a wonderful sidewalk with no road to go down along with it,” said Selectman George Jellison.

“It’s been so long, and the cost of construction has risen,” Donahue said. “In the future, we need to go forward when a project gets catalyzed. Construction doesn’t get cheaper.”

Blake Cass

Blake Cass

Blake Cass

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