STAMFORD, Vt. -- The project to replace the sidewalk along a section of Main Road will move forward.
In 34-10 vote by means of paper ballot, residents approved the continuation of the project, which will replace the sidewalk from Mill Road south to across from the southwest corner of the Stamford Elementary School property, at a special town meeting Thursday night.
Eunice Rice, chairwoman of the Select Board, said the board was very relieved that the majority of voters at the meeting had agreed to allow the project to continue.
"It makes us feel more confident going forward, and it makes us feel good that people have a better understanding about what is going on," she said.
The project needs to get a few more approvals from the state, and then it should be ready to go out to bid, she said.
The Bennington County Regional Planning Commis sion has been working with the town on the project.
"Finally after the last seven years, it’s ready to go," Select Board Member David Bugbee told residents at the meeting.
The latest set of project plans approved by the board have eliminated any permanent easements the town would have had to have gotten from certain property owners to build the sidewalk, he said.
The 480-foot long sidewalk was originally designed with a buffer of grass in between it and the curb.
The new plans remove that buffer, and move the 5-foot wide concrete sidewalk and curb closer to the center of the road.
The project is being paid for with a $200,000 grant from the Vermont Transportation Road Enhancement Project, which is funded by the Federal High way Administration. The town is responsible for providing a 20 percent match, or $40,000, for the grant.
Those matching funds were allocated from the town’s future needs fund by town meeting in March 2007.
Rice said that to-date, the Federal Highway Administra tion has spent $33,765.65 on the project, and the town’s share has been $8,441.16. If the town doesn’t continue with the project, the $33,765.65 would have to be paid back to the federal agency, and the town would lose the money it has already spent, she said.
"If we don’t go through with the construction of the sidewalk, it will cost us $42,205 and change," she said.
If the town does continue the project, it would cost it between $35,000 -- $40,000, according to the Bennington County Regional Commission, she said.
"Therefore, the Select Board doesn’t feel it’s good use of taxpayers’ money to pay for something and not get anything in return," she said.
During the roughly hour-long meeting, some residents expressed concerns about the long-term cost to the town to maintain the sidewalk.
Other residents even suggested re mov ing the sidewalk as a way to prevent the town from being sued if someone fell while walking on the existing one.
"The existing sidewalk should be removed, and it wouldn’t be a liability," David Howe said.
Ken Jensen said while it may seem short-sighted to throw $42,000 away, in the long-term, he can see it saving the town a lot of headache.
Janice Farinon said throwing away $42,000 is "insanity."
"If we’re going to spend $42,000 for nothing, and put ourselves in a liability situation, we’re out of our minds," she said.
To reach Meghan Foley, email email@example.com.