CLEWISTON — The City of Clewiston will apply to compete for a state Department of Transportation grant for $600,000 to complete just four small segments of sidewalk totaling 3/4 mile under Florida’s Safe Route to School Infrastructure Grant.
City Manager Randy Martin told commissioners the staff report on the resolution before them contained updated information, including a map. The four locations are: Laurel Street from Saginaw to Via del Aqua (1/4 mile); De Soto from Laurel to Ponce de Leon (0.18 mile); San Pedro from Arroyo to Orchard Park Drive, and on Bowden Road (0.08 mile); and West El Paso from W.C. Owen to Deane Duff (0.24 mile).
The cost by FDOT’s estimate, he said, would be “in the range of $500,000 to $600,000, and we’re required to do an in-kind contribution of $25,000 to $30,000, which would be equivalent to 5 percent of whatever the project is,” for administrative costs. And yes, all that money for three-quarters of a mile of sidewalk, he said later in response to an incredulous Commissioner Melanie McGahee.
Commissioner Julio Rodriguez asked what the city would supply, other than the map. “Do we have to have any other type of documentation?” Mr. Martin said, “Yes, it’s a detailed application process.”
Public Works Director Sean Scheffler explained the FDOT received $7 million from the state legislature designated for the Safe Route grants and there would be a competitive process to award only two in FDOT’s District 1. He said the Heartland Regional Transportation Planning Organization would be ranking applications before they go to the FDOT.
Mr. Rodriguez asked whether they would be getting support from the Hendry County Commission and the Hendry School Board for the application. Mr. Scheffler said surveys would be done of two elementary school populations, family questionnaires in both English and Spanish. The application is due in only a few weeks, though.
Commissioner McGahee said, “It’s really a competitive process to win these dollars.”
Mr. Scheffler said: “It is. Actually there is a student group at the University of Florida that is handling the community outreach portion of this program and getting the surveys, and I’ve been in touch with (its coordinator) three or four times today. Then … she will break them down (the questions and answers) and create the spreadsheet on it and then resubmit it.”
Ms. McGahee said: “I would like to actually see the application when you get it completed. I think it would be something nice for all the commissioners … to see so we can all appreciate what goes into asking for and writing a grant.”
But, she added, “It looks like it’s … 0.75 mile. Is that how much a sidewalk costs?”
Mr. Martin said, chuckling, “Construction, no.” Mr. Scheffler added, “When you’re working with the department (FDOT), that’s where the costs generally work out.”
Mr. Martin said, “When we build them, they’re not that expensive.”
Ms. McGahee asked if they included any crosswalks or lighting fixtures. “Not at these locations,” answered Mr. Scheffler. This is … putting in sidewalks where they don’t exist, and the ones I chose were trying to tie existing sidewalks together so it would complete a route to the school so kids would not have to be in the road.”
She asked, “Why would FDOT, if these are just simple sidewalks … when we can do it for a lot less money, why wouldn’t we try to bid the project?”
Mr. Sheffler sighed and said, “It’s a good question. And the answer is simple … a lot of factors are taken into consideration. This is a program where the DOT takes it from start to finish, designs it, bids it, selects the contractors, installs it, inspects it and turns it over to you when it’s done.”
She said there was an option for the city to bid it, but Mr. Sheffler said he didn’t see it. The commissioners and Ms. Gardner asked whether the city could add on other sidewalks if bids came in lower than estimated. That would remain to be seen, he said.
The commission passed the resolution 5-0.