By Joseph Hamrick
Some citizens welcomed the possibility of new sidewalks, but others protested the proposed installation during a Monday meeting to discuss the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) project.
The SRTS project is a $1.87 million dollar grant which is 100-percent federally funded to encourage students to walk and bike to school. The city is planning to build more than 15 miles of new sidewalks surrounding Bowie, Carver, Crockett and Lamar elementary schools.
Massoud Ebrahim, director of public works for Greenville, said he hopes to begin construction within the next year.
“If all goes well, we are looking to begin construction in the first quarter of 2013,” he said. “It will take between six and nine months to complete. It’s going to be a huge project.”
According to Ebrahim, grants such as these are few.
“These days you don’t find a 100-percent grant anymore,” he said. “The reason for the grant is to encourage kids to walk to school and have physical activity so in the future they will be healthy.”
Ebrahim said he has been working on acquiring this grant for a decade.
“This project didn’t happen overnight,” he said. “It took 10 years of hard work.”
Ebrahim assured the citizens that any work the city does on its right of way, it will ensure the property value will not be negatively affected.
“With any work we do we make sure that property value is equal or better,” he said. “We work with you to make sure everything is better.”
Bruce Shores, assistant superintendent of Greenville ISD, voiced his support for the project, and claimed it will increase safety.
“It’s a great opportunity for our kids to get extra physical activity,” he said. “It will also extend our safe school environment.”
Byron Taylor, a Greenville resident, said the sidewalks will increase stability in the neighborhoods.
“For the past 40 years our neighborhoods have been in decline,” he said. “It will help to stabilize and increase property values and will give more funding in the future.”
Some citizens took the stance that building sidewalks would actually increase crime.
“The neighborhood we live in is fairly crime ridden,” said Paul Mosman, a resident who lives near the proposed project. “I think it will promote crime. I have 17 names petitioned against the sidewalk.”
Mosman’s wife, Olga Mosman, said she did not trust the city to protect the trees.
“I love the environment,” she said. “I don’t believe these people.”