Monday July 29, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- Public Works Director Steve Barrett knows that once construction crews start working on the sidewalk on the east side of Main Street next year, merchants, pedestrians and drivers will feel the effect. He can't prevent the disruption, but he can make sure everyone knows the project is going to happen.

Because workers are going to spend two or three months tearing up the sidewalk and putting down new concrete, he is going to hold a public meeting on Wednesday July 31, a good six months before the work starts, to get people acquainted with the project.

"The meeting on the 31st is for public input and also for business owners and residents of the downtown and concerned citizens to go over the project," said Barrett. "If they have comments or suggestions this is the best time to get into this program."

The meeting is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. in the Selectboard Meeting Room.

This stretch of Main Street sidewalk probably was done 40 or 50 years ago, Barrett said.

"It's been a long time," he said. "Sidewalks are old and they go a long time. This is not something we do every 10 years."

The town is spending about $460,000 on the project with a combination of grants and matching money.

There was a similar meeting in April when designers and planners heard from the public. At the meeting on July 31, Barrett said engineers will have more detailed plans to show people how the project is progressing.

Barrett said the project is likely to cause some disruptions on Main Street, and he is going to try to make sure everyone is aware of the impending work. He said the contractors will work closely with the merchants to make sure deliveries are not affected and he said the workers will do what they can to avoid having an impact on sales.

He also said it is likely that some parking spaces are going to be taken away during construction.

"We'll work closely with the merchants to try to keep access to the businesses so they can stay in business. We'll make accommodations for that," Barrett said. "We know its an inconvenience, but we want to make it so it's accessible for the public so the merchants can still operate. That is very important to us."

Barrett said 30 years ago there were fewer residents living downtown and crews could work at night.

He said if there are any events planned for Main Street the work crews will have to alter their schedules as well.

"It's all about massaging the whole program to accommodate the downtown and the pedestrians and the motorists and the merchants," Barrett said. "It takes a lot of planning but the contractors are really good about it."

When the state repaved Main Street in 2011 some of the cutouts were upgraded and Barrett said the town will not have to redo those sections.

The town has about $75,000 in the budget to do sidewalk work. Barrett said that money will be used for smaller sidewalk patches throughout town.

The Main Street project is being covered through the grants and matching funds.

"There's a lot of pedestrians walking on these sidewalks all day long and even into the evening," Barrett said. "We felt that this was an important section to upgrade with the grant money."

Barrett also said the Department of Public Works and the Selectboard will hold a number of meetings in the coming year before the first crew is on site.

Even though the work is not going to begin for a few months Barrett said he hopes to get people involved with the project early.

"If people have concerns or ideas this is the place to come and talk about them," Barrett said. "There are definitely going to be some inconveniences, but hopefully everyone will know about it before we start."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or hwtisman@reformer.com. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.