By Alice E. Gerard
The Grand Island Town Board approved, by a 5-0 vote, an application for funding from the New York State Department of Transportation's Transportation Alternative Program for ADA-compliant sidewalks in the center of town on Baseline Road. If the $375,000 grant is approved, the state would provide $300,000, and the town would provide 20 percent of the funding, or $75,000.
According to Town Supervisor Nathan McMurray, "The grant would allow us to put sidewalks in at a high-trafficked section of Baseline Road. This would be in addition to the $1.3 million grant that we received last year."
Debate over the grant application included discussion of the necessity of the sidewalk and the state of town finances. Town Councilman Mike Madigan said, "I'm really concerned about the town finances. There are a lot of projects that we've already approved, a lot of bonds that we have to pay off for several years. We just approved $3 million dollars for sewer infrastructure. There are real needs and doing all of these additional nice-to-have projects that aren't essential is starting to build up to a point where we are at a critical mass, and we are going to put a real hole in our town finances and exceed the tax cap. Seventy-five thousand dollars is about one-third of the total tax cap."
Town Councilwoman Beverly Kinney said, "This is a $300,000 grant. The total for the sidewalk is $375,000. We're getting 80 percent of the money to put the sidewalks in. As for saying whether this is a want and not a need: along Baseline Road, we have a church and apartments, and we're talking about making the center of Grand Island a walkable place to be. I think that it is a need. We're able to get 80 percent of that cost covered. Why we would not go forward to do that? We talk about the tax cap. I really don't think that we've determined that we're in such dire straits."
Town Councilman Peter Marston Jr., said, "As far as want versus need, it's time to draw the line here. I personally, for a $75,000 buy-in, am not interested in anybody being in danger. I don't know anybody whose life isn't worth more than that. Our three things are health, welfare, and safety. This covers two."
McMurray explained, "This is just an application (for a grant). We do commit, if we proceed with the project, that we will spend the 20 percent buy-in or the $75,000. We are in an era right now where we have continued activity here in the Town Commons. We have more events. We have yoga. The Gus Macker was here. We have a major facility here in Fantasy Island. For generations, there was nothing. There were people walking in the road. We know that we've had accidents on the Island and losses on the Island, as a result of those accidents. Seventy-five thousand dollars to help create a walkable community, which is what we said that we wanted in our master plan, is a very smart move."