Mother to Aspen officials: Give us a safe sidewalk to get to school, library
Aspen resident Kimbo Brown-Schirato is learning just how slow government action can be.
She said she has been asking city officials since February to put in a continuous sidewalk in a section of the West End that leads from the Early Learning Center at the Yellow Brick schoolhouse to the Pitkin County Library.
“People end up walking down the middle of the road,” she said. “It’s clearly a safety concern and a no-brainer.”
Brown-Schirato, who lives on Mill Street, added that it’s especially unsafe for hundreds of preschoolers who walk that area — particularly on Bleeker and Hallam streets — every day.
“It’s not acceptable,” she said, adding emails to elected officials have gone largely unanswered and city staff has responded sporadically. “I’m frustrated because I thought I had done everything I could do as a citizen to reiterate how unsafe it is and that it needs to get done in 2019.”
Her neighbor, Diana Short, who also lives along Mill Street and has two children who attend preschool at the Yellow Brick, addressed council during public comment on Oct. 8 about the issue.
“My main concern is that there are 10 or 11 classrooms at the Early Learning Center with eight to 12 kids per class and every day they are going on adventures into town.”
She was interrupted by Mayor Steve Skadron, who told her that council “was fully aware of this, we talked about it last week and it’s coming together.”
City Engineer Trish Aragon said on Thursday that she plans to bring the West End sidewalk project to council in January, along with a list of other critical areas that need sidewalk links.
“There are gaps all around town and we methodically try to fill them,” she said.
Aragon explained that once a citizen request comes in, it is reviewed internally by a pedestrian and bike safety team comprised of city officials from various departments.
The team agreed the Bleeker sidewalk needs to be finished but so do others, and council will have to provide direction on what should be prioritized.
“Before a project becomes a project, it competes against other projects,” Aragon said, adding that the Yellow Brick-library route was identified long ago as an area that needs a continuous sidewalk.
But as development has occurred in that area, the city requires that sidewalks be installed in front of those particular properties so the need has become less of a priority.
In emails provided by Brown-Schirato to city engineering staff, it was indicated earlier this year that the sidewalk would be in the 2019 budget and construction would occur in the fall or spring.
In September, Aragon wrote to Brown-Schirato explaining that City Manager Steve Barwick and other senior officials review staff recommendations, along with other priorities and budgeting needs.
She told Brown-Schirato the Bleeker sidewalk project was removed from the city’s capital plan and staff would be returning to council later this year in a work session to review pedestrian connections and recommendations.
She said Thursday that preliminary cost estimates for the project is $560,000 but is likely lower now that other sidewalk infrastructure has been installed due to development.
If Aragon gets direction from council to make it a priority, then design and other engineering work would occur next year with actual construction likely to happen in 2020, she said.
She noted that bids from contractors in the summer are more expensive than waiting until the fall or winter.
Brown-Schirato said providing a safe walking route in a busy neighborhood should be a priority for a council that sets policy to get people out of their cars and use alternative transportation, including walking.
“It needs to get done,” she said. “It should be a priority.”
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Many members of the community wrote to laud the former Skico executive and city councilman for his friendship, dedication to family and community-minded spirit over more than two decades in Aspen.