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Townspeople turn out to discuss proposed Union sidewalk

By Christine Simmonds | Nov 20, 2019
Photo by: Christine Simmonds The Union town select board meeting on Nov. 19 focuses on the sidewalk plan.

Union — A planned sidewalk in Union has garnered strong reactions from locals.

A petition has been submitted to the Town Selectmen asking the board “to reject the sidewalk project from the Post Office to Ayer Park.” As of the Nov. 19 Town Selectmen meeting, the petition had 70 signatures from Union voters.

This opposition was out in full force at the meeting as well. More than 30 people attended solely to discuss the sidewalk.

Multiple voices were heard, and a polite and civil discourse was maintained. The Union residents had many questions and concerns about this project.

The biggest concerns voiced at the meeting were money being spent and the procedure of the town select board in moving forward with the project.

The board maintained it followed the comprehensive plan of 2016 to move forward with the Maine Department of Transportation, and was within their rights to authorize the grant and sign the agreements with MDOT. The voters can then be presented with that plan and decide on it.

Board members stated they wanted more comprehensive and concrete information about the sidewalk plan before they discussed it with the town, to be better able to answer questions. Currently, it is unknown what side of the street the sidewalk will even be on, they pointed out.

The Union taxpayers in attendance felt they had been left out of the loop, especially those who live on Depot Street, where the sidewalk was being planned. Multiple people stated that the board should have reached out to home and landowners affected by the proposed plan before the board moved forward in signing any agreements.

The Town of Union reached out to the MDOT in March of 2017 about the project, and met with representatives from the MaineDOT in April of the same year. Union submitted an application for funding in August of 2017 through MaineDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Funding.

The transportation department selected this project for funding in February of 2019. “Union’s application scored 87 out of an available 100 points and was the 4th highest scoring application we reviewed,” according to an email from MaineDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager Patrick Adams regarding the project.

As for funding, Adams’ email stated, “As of today, MaineDOT has committed funding to designing the project and working through the Right of Way process. Once the design has been refined and finalized, the department intends to provide additional funding to support the project’s construction – up to a total project cost of $500,000 ($400,000 maximum state contribution and up to $100,000 in local costs) with any costs over the $500,000 being local share only.”

There has been no construction on this bicycle and pedestrian path to date, and the final starting and ending location has not been determined. Adams’ email pointed out that “we are still very early in this process and anticipate future opportunities for the public to make comment through this process.”

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