Grants sought for curbs, sidewalks

City Council on Wednesday voted to apply for a $500,000 state grant to help pay the $1.2 million cost of replacing curbs and sidewalks on Broad Avenue, a project brought on by the radical amputation of tree limbs there by a PennDOT contractor last summer in preparation for paving.

About 20 Broad Avenue residents told council what kind of enhancements they’d like for the project – including a slightly wider street, a grass strip inside the curb, decorative streetlights, an extension of the project beyond 24th and 31st streets, speed limit signs, one-way signs and trees that don’t block the sight lines of drivers at intersections.

The residents’ requests make sense, but some are likely to remain because of limited funding, according to Councilman Bruce Kelley.

“[The cutting] was an abomination,” he said. “[And] we are trying to make lemonade out of lemons.”

But the city will need to contribute about $700,000 in Community Development Block Grant money over three or four years, said Public Works Director Dave Diedrich.

Moreover, the requested state grant amount is the maximum allowed by the Department of Community and Economic Development’s Keystone Communities program, while other grant programs are drying up, said Planning Director Lee Slusser.

PennDOT has removed the damaged old trees and is grinding out stumps, and when the curb and sidewalks are in, it will pay for 63 replacement trees – or about four for each side of each block, according to Diedrich.

Workers will place them on properties of residents who want them, though distributed as uniformly as possible.

They’ll be of a species that cause the least damage to sidewalks.

It would be a “mistake” for the city not to include decorative street lights or not to widen the street slightly to allow more room for cars to park on both sides and travel in two lanes, according to resident Dave Woleslagle.

But decorative street lights are $10,000 each, Diedrich said.

And widening the street – which PennDOT would need to agree with – could compromise the space needed for an ADA-compliant three-foot-wide sidewalk, especially if the city decides to include a grass strip inside the curb, officials said.

“I think this is fantastic,” said resident Alex Franco.

“It’s good to see so much support,” said new Mayor Matt Pacifico.

The project’s toll on CDBG funds shouldn’t shortchange the city’s bike patrol, blighted property demolition and resurfacing programs, which rely on those funds, according to Slusser.

Mirror Staff Writer Bill Kibler is at 949-7038.