By SHERIDAN CYR
Town and school officials are teaming up and looking into a small project on the campus of Hatton Elementary School. At the last committee of the chairs meeting, Town Council chair Chris Palmieri, Board of Education chair Brian Goralski, superintendent Tim Connellan and Town Manager Mark Sciota discussed what it would take, and if it was worth it, to remove a small portion of a walking path leading from Berlin Street north-ward to the school.
The path, as it currently sits, leads toward the school off of the sidewalk on Berlin Street. Path-goers come to a small wooden fence, then continue north to pass a chain-link fence on the right-hand side that intersects with a smaller walking path leading off of Cathy Drive. The path continues right into the parking lot of Hatton.
The discussion involves removing the portion of the path from Berlin St. to the first wooden fence. It is in disrepair, and with the advice of the schools’ director of operations Pete Romano, officials deem it underutilized as a school-access path.
“Mr. Romano went out and looked at the usage of the path, and it just really doesn’t get used by students very much for whatever reason. Perhaps the neighborhood has changed in that area,” said Connellan. “He also examined the impact if the path wasn’t there, in terms of the transportation system of students, and there is no impact whatsoever. There are cost factors for replacing the path, and we don’t really view that as something that’s necessary to maintain for student access.”
Palmieri stated maintenance of the path has been an issue and has been brought to his attention by a nearby resident. If the portion of the path is removed, he said, the area should be maintained and mowed the same way the rest of the property is.
“Because of its condition and its lack of use, we the school system do not need it as a school access way. There is one student there that would use that path, and it is not regularly used by that student,” said Goralski. “If necessary, Mr. Romano will be looking at other transportation available to that student.”
He added there are sidewalks going down Pleasant Street, Berlin Street, and Cathy Drive.
“Should a need arise for those same neighborhoods in the future, there will be another option available for any student who does use it,” said Goralski. “Mr. Romano will address that on a case-by-case basis.”
There were three possibilities considered by officials. The first was to remove and replace the walk. The second was to overlay the existing walk, and the third was to remove the section in disrepair and seed the path.
Romano said a contractor quoted the town at $53,550 to remove and replace the path, and $34,524 to overlay the existing path, which is not recommended.
To remove the path and seed it, Romano said the work would be done by town employees, who are already being paid for their regular 40-hours-per-week work. To actually tear up the path would be an “opportunity cost,” which he described as simply paying the workers their regular pay for their time.
He offered a rough estimate of around $100 to $200 for the top soil and seeding material.
“The cost would be nominal as it would only be top soil and seed,” Romano said. “The labor is only an opportunity cost as we could be using that labor for other tasks.”
“I want us to be involved and be in communication with the residents in that area,” said Goralski. “The solution is to not spend $30,000 of town money for a sidewalk that the school doesn’t need. We’re not trying to take away peoples’ abilities to walk; we just want to be responsible of how we spend town taxpayer dollars.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.