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Church Street sidewalk plans underway


March 03, 2010
BELMONT — The state has required that an archaeologist with experience in unmarked graves dig in front of Highland Cemetery before the town moves forward with constructing a sidewalk.

In recent weeks the Board of Selectmen heard a design proposal from Steve Smith and Associates outlining the potential sidewalk's dimensions, and since then Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin has been communicating with state archaeologist Richard Boisvert. According to Beaudin, Boisvert said that because of the proximity to the cemetery, the state requires that the town excavate a strip of land and have an archaeologist search for unmarked graves. The state has the power to protect within a 10-foot boundary of the cemetery.

The current plan is for the Church Street sidewalk to be built from the Catholic church up to Belmont High School. Bill Stack from Steve Smith and Associates said his firm came up with two schemes, which placed the sidewalk on either side of the road. Ultimately, they decided that putting the sidewalk on the west side of the road had the least amount of drawbacks.

Stack said the west side has the most houses, it continues the existing sidewalk, and it can stay within the right of way, so there's no need to go to abutters.

"It's a little bit more expensive because of some drainage structures," he said. But, "it seemed to fit very well from a safety aspect."

The sidewalk will not reach Seavey Road, but Stack said a crosswalk will be painted onto the road at the back entrance of the high school.

Stack said that cost estimates for the sidewalk's construction ranged from $100,000 to $120,000. About half the money will be in the sidewalk capital reserve fund, should voters approve placing an additional $20,000 in that fund on Election Day. There is currently $44,000 in the fund.

The selectmen are also considering applying for a Safe Routes to School grant, though Beaudin pointed out that those monies are meant for a population base of kindergarten through eighth grade. After Election Day and the school district's annual meeting, Beaudin said the town should meet with the school district transportation committee to see if and how the sidewalk will be used by students.

"We need to really get the school's participation," she said.

Prior to construction, the selectmen will move forward with public hearings. The board agreed that the schematic design is favorable, so if the archaeological dig doesn't turn up problems, the sidewalk will be constructed on the west side of Church Street.

"It mimics where the old sidewalk used to be," board Chairman Ron Cormier said.

Selectman David Morse suggested that if the archaeologist does discover unmarked graves, they could be moved to the South Road cemetery.

If the state says the town can't build on the west side of the road, Beaudin said they still want to get the work done this spring.

"We really need to proceed with designing it on the other side of the road if we're not going to design it on this side ," Beaudin said.

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