Athol Selectmen back CDBG Proposal for Church Street

  • Athol Director of Planning and Development Eric Smith looks on while consultant Linda Overing of Breezeway Farm Consulting explains the proposed application for a Community Development Block Grant to fund the reconstruction of Church Street. Greg Vine

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 2/10/2019 9:06:28 AM

ATHOL — The Walnut Street Neighborhood project received the unanimous endorsement of the Athol Selectmen Tuesday night.

Plans to seek a fiscal 2019 Community Development Block Grant to fund the reconstruction of Church Street and pay for the design of similar work in what’s being called the Walnut Street Neighborhood are moving forward.

The $466,441 grant, if approved by the state Dept. of Housing and Community Development, would be used solely for the two proposals and for related work. There would be no funds set aside for housing rehabilitation or home heating assistance.

The grant application must be submitted to DHCD by March 8.

Grant consultant Linda Overing, of Breezeway Farm Consulting Inc. of New Salem, told the board, “We’re estimating construction costs, building in a 10 percent contingency, to be around $320,000.”

“It’s a relatively short street; 390 feet,” said Overing. “We don’t actually have to touch the Main Street intersection with Church because that was done when Main Street was rebuilt 10 years ago. Work will continue down toward Walnut, going around the corner just a little bit on Walnut.”

“The whole infrastructure will be replaced,” she continued. “The sewer and water pipes are 80 to 90 years old and in poor and fragile condition. We’ll be replacing the current drainage and actually adding a little bit more. We’ll also be putting in new sidewalks and with that handicap accessible crossings and crosswalks, both at the corner of Walnut and at the corner of the church.”

“Finally, we’ll be rebuilding the road,” said Overing. “We’ll be putting in a whole new road surface. The existing one is just crumbling away. And when the road is laid it will be done so that it will improve runoff toward the drainage.”

“Our vision is to use CDBG funds to improve Walnut Street and Union Street, and the end of Canal, just north of Main Street. We’re referring to it as the Walnut Street neighborhood.”

“It made sense to us to start with church,” she explained, “because the water line that serves that whole neighborhood actually comes off of Main Street and runs in that direction. So, if we can repair that first – make it larger and improve flows for fire safety – subsequent improvements will just flow from that.”

In all, $328,170 – including $6,400 in municipal funds to help pay for engineering services – will be committed to the Church Street reconstruction. Engineering design costs for Walnut Street Neighborhood project total $71,500, and so-called delivery expenses and general administrative expenses total just over $73,000.

Mart Holtorf, manager of the Athol Farmers Market, was among those speaking in favor of the grant proposal. “I think this is a great start to a project stretching all the way down Walnut Street,” she said. “There so much there to connect downtown Athol to Millers River Environmental Center, Cass Meadow and the environmental park, and to Fish Park. It’s a great start and I hope it gets to continue.”

Sherry St. John, owner of Haircrafters on Church Street, also spoke in favor of the project.

“It’s very difficult for customers to get to my salon,” she said. “The sidewalks have been patched recently, and I’m very grateful for that, but they need a lot more work. It’s very hard on our business and our clients. I’m looking forward to, hopefully, having some beautiful new sidewalks and having things fixed up.”

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