Blanchester votes down sidewalk project due to many concerns, including safety, funding and transparency

By John Hamilton -

BLANCHESTER — The village’s Safe Routes to School project was voted down by council Thursday evening.

Blanchester Village Council members unanimously voted against a resolution against their Safe Routes to School project (member Chad Hollon was unable to attend the meeting).

The project would have constructed a sidewalk along East Baldwin Street between North Broadway and North Columbus Street. This would’ve included curb ramps, signage and pavement markings. In total, the village would have had to pay $23,804, according to the resolution.

Safe Routes to School, created by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), provides funds to school districts to increase pedestrian activity and infrastructure in the community.

Prior to the vote, Peggy Morgan, a Baldwin Street resident, spoke about concerns she and others had of the Safe Routes to School project. The biggest concerns were over potential safety risks after the project is done, and certain construction elements.

“I don’t know if you people know, but there are young people who walk these streets at one, two, three o’clock in the morning. When you’re at that time of day and you’re young, it’s usually up to something up to no good,” she said. “So, by putting these sidewalks far up into our yard, we’re inviting that element up closer to our house, which I don’t think is a good idea from a safety standpoint.”

She also expressed concerns about possible littering occurring, and maintenance responsibilities falling to the residents.

She also was wondering why the whole sidewalk project couldn’t be at curb level since it would affect utility pole placement.

Mike Goettemoeller, a project manager from Choice One Engineering — the engineering and surveyor company hired by the village — said they had looked at putting the sidewalk on the curb. However, according to Goettemoeller, due to the project being federally funded, they had to follow ODOT guidelines; these included a wanting to not move the utility poles.

Councilmember Reilly Hopkins felt the project wasn’t as transparent as he wanted it and he wanted to know who didn’t want to spend extra money to move utility poles.

“Because nobody came to me and asked me if we’d like to entertain moving the poles. That just didn’t happen,” said Hopkins.

Goettemoeller said they went to get funding and applied for $400,000 funding, but Safe Routes to School said they’d be willing to fund only $300,000.

“We were limited with our funding from kind of the get-go from Safe Routes to School and ODOT,” said Goettemoeller.

He advised he had consulted with village officials about “trying to maximize” what they could do with the funding they had and keep within budget. Hopkins said he wished he was informed about this.

Mayor John Carman advised they were hoping to get more money instead of what they had.

“We had grand hopes of doing more, but the problem was the lack of funding, and we wanted to stay under the threshold,” said Carman, “because we don’t have any out-of-pocket (spending).”

Councilmember Harry Brumbaugh thought adding the sidewalk was “not necessary”. Brumbaugh felt it would “encourage more danger” with kids to run across the street. He felt the village should repair the north side of the street from Broadway Street up to Putman Elementary School.

Carman told the News Journal he doesn’t believe there will be further discussions about the project.

By John Hamilton

Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574

Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574