Providing a safe route to school at Garfield Elementary School continues to move along following the unanimous approval during Monday night’s Brainerd School Board meeting.
Brought to the Brainerd City Council during its meeting last Monday, council member Gary Scheeler and Brainerd City Planner Mark Ostgarden presented a map for sidewalks around Garfield Elementary with a grant application for $300,000 and an additional $150,000 — $75,000 from the district and $75,000 from the city — to expand the sidewalks around the school for a total project cost of $450,000.
Council approved a motion during that meeting to apply for the grant for Safe Routes To School and contribute $75,000 contingent upon the district matching the contribution with a 6-1 vote. Council member Mary Koep opposed.
Holding a meeting for the public last week, Scheeler said many of those who showed up were worried about the cost, but upon visiting with those along the grant-paid-for sidewalks, all that he spoke with were in favor.
“When I was campaigning, a lot of people told me that (safety) around school was a concern with no sidewalks,” said Scheeler, who included signatures and addresses of those in favor and opposed for the sidewalk construction around the school. “And I have heard from a lot of people that would like to see this get done for the safety of the children ... it seems like a positive to me.”
Garfield Principal Jon Clark agreed with Scheeler on the need for sidewalks, saying that sidewalks around the school would tremendously increase the safety for the nearly 370 students that attend the school.
“We don’t have a separation of pedestrian and cross traffic,” said Clark. “It would change our bussing pretty dramatically because right now our special education buses load and unload on 11th (Street) and we would be able to move them to 10th (Street) and develop some sort of plan.
“When we have slippery roads like we do right now, I see that as an additional hazard ... it stops traffic and I would much rather have those students on a sidewalk.”
Ostgarden reminded board members that these sidewalks would not only be beneficial for the current students and families that attend and live around Garfield, but for future families, too.
Steve Lund, director of business services, said the $75,000 contribution for the project would come from the district’s capital budget and with the possibility of the project beginning not until summer 2014, they would have time to build that into a budget surplus.
Newly elected school board member Bob Nystrom made the motion to support the application for the $300,000 grant for Safe Routes To School and matching a city contribution. Board member Chris Robinson seconded the motion which unanimously was approved.