A no-vote by the Pinecrest council Tuesday night on installing two blocks of sidewalk along Red Road would put more than $1 million in grant money linked to that project and others in jeopardy, the village manager has warned council members.
Village Manager Yocelyn Galiano-Gomez told the council in an April 6 email that without a commitment from Pinecrest to install sidewalks along Red Road between Southwest 96 and 97 avenues and north of Southwest 100 Street to fill a sidewalk gap, the state would rescind the entire grant it had committed to the village’s Safe Routes to School initiative.
A federally funded and state-administered program, Safe Routes to School helps local governments pay for infrastructure updates that encourage biking and walking to school.
Last month, council members held off on voting to approve the first phase of the project when a divided council removed sidewalks — leaving just some signage updates — from the action. At the time, Galiano warned that doing so could mean the village forfeiting about $190,000 in federal funds, and council agreed to revisit the sidewalks in April when a vote to the project’s second phase was already scheduled.
According to Galiano’s email, the village would not only lose $194,520 — the entire grant amount, which in part paid for signage updates — but also be required to refund the state the $40,000 it gave the village to design its routes.
A last-minute change of heart on a project years in the making and for which the village had applied and received grants for could jeopardize other funds Pinecrest has secured, and hamper the village’s ability to secure state grants in the future, Galiano’s email says.
“[State officials] warned abandonment of this agreement may also result in forfeiture of the $1 million grant through the MPO for the bike lanes on [Southwest] 104 Street and [Southwest] 77 Avenue, and likely negatively affect the Village’s standing/efforts in securing future grants with the State,” Galiano’s email continues.
“It is my strong recommendation that the Village Council revert the sidewalks that were slated for construction in Phase 1 Safe Routes to School Program; and approve construction of Phase 1 as designed at the meeting,” it reads.
Galiano’s email notes that the project’s second phase, which also includes sidewalks, is not tied to any state or federal grants, and can be amended at the council’s will.
Meanwhile, an anonymous online group called “Preserve Pinecrest” has been drumming up opposition to the sidewalks and telling residents to attend Tuesday’s meeting. In emails to residents and on Facebook, the group has been claiming that the sidewalks would require the removal of hundreds of trees, worsen flooding and result in “significant heat build-up.”
The village’s 100-page report on the Safe Routes to School makes no mention of drainage, “heat build-up” or tree removal, and when asked in an email for evidence of these potential impacts, a representative from Preserve Pinecrest — who declined be identified — only said an un-named village council member had told them 226 trees would allegedly be uprooted to make room for bike lanes along Southwest 104 Street.
The bike lanes are not actually part of the Safe Routes to School initiative, although Galiano’s email suggests that a decision by the village to forego certain sidewalks could put state funds committed to the bike lanes in danger.