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Bocchino pushes for sidewalk near civic center

August 3, 2018

GREENWICH — State Rep. Michael Bocchino, R-150, is pushing the town to install a sidewalk in Old Greenwich near the civic center, saying the stretch of Harding Road there is a safety hazard that should have been addressed years ago.

Harding should have a sidewalk from Brown House Road to the Eastern Greenwich Civic Center, Bocchino said, an improvement he claims was to be included on a list in a 2010 report by the Selectmen’s Pedestrian and Safety Advisory Board but was “mistakenly omitted.”

Bocchino said he met with First Selectman Peter Tesei and Department of Public Works Commissioner Amy Siebert about getting the sidewalk funded in the 2019-20 budget.

“This is a heavily, heavily used civic center and we don’t have a safe pathway for kids walking there from Harding Road or Brown House Road or Kensington Court,” Bocchino said. “It’s an issue for our seniors too.”

Siebert on Thursday said it was incorrect to say a sidewalk at that location had been omitted from a list of improvement projects in town, since there never was a list in the first place. Siebert said the board’s 2010 report did discuss safety issues but included no specific recommendations of areas to install new sidewalks.

Bocchino said he disagreed with that assessment and that the issue is a priority for Old Greenwich that should be addressed by the town.

Tesei said an earlier 2006 report did have a list of recommended streets for sidewalks and crosswalks but Harding Road was not on it. He noted neighborhoods can “become divided” over whether sidewalks should be installed and where they should be located.

Siebert said she told Bocchino they would take a look at the area. One challenge to overcome is that the town has not given DPW money in the capital budget for new sidewalks in at several years, Siebert said.

Bocchino said he understood the budgetary issues but said there had to be a way to find money in DPW’s budget to do it, including seeking grant money.

“This is not something we can just sit and wait over and then do nothing,” Bocchino said.

The focus on the sidewalk comes at a time when Bocchino is in a fight for re-election. He is seeking a third term in the 150th District. His Democratic challenger, Stephen Meskers, expressed some skepticism about Bocchino’s interest in the sidewalk Thursday.

“Traffic and safety are concerns of all residents,” Meskers said. “Criticizing the current administration in an election year is easy. I am unaware of any traffic study or plans to install sidewalks on Harding. I prefer to see our tax dollars used wisely.”

The town should study the issue before spending the money, Meskers said.

“In any case a local issue is the purview of our local officials and residents,” he said. “The state job as representative would not seem to involve a sidewalk in Old Greenwich. Let’s not mix state responsibility and local needs unless Hartford is going to fund it.”

Bocchino rejected any idea that his actions are politically motivated. He said he was made aware of the safety concerns by residents at a recent town event he attended.

Old Greenwich Association President Meg Nolan Van Reesma said she supported the potential improvement.

“I am aware that there have been issues with traffic in that area of Harding Road with people worried about drivers going too fast around the corner but this is the first I’m hearing about a sidewalk there,” Van Reesma said Thursday. “I think it’s a great idea though.”

Siebert said the Harding Road sidewalk is something that could be addressed in potential future work on the civic center.

The town is currently focusing on building a new civic center on the existing site. The plan, according to Tesei, is to have the new civic center in the 2019-20 municipal budget.

Van Reesma said she would not want to see a sidewalk project cause any delays in bringing about a new civic center.

A recently conducted resident survey is part of the ongoing planning of the new center. Siebert said said residents should vocalize their desire if they want sidewalk improvements to be part of the work.

“If this is something residents want to see then we are happy to hear from them,” Siebert said. “We want citizen involvement when there are issues in town that need to be addressed.”

Tesei said consideration of a sidewalk on Harding Road, “Will certainly be part of the town’s planning with the civic center.”

kborsuk@greenwichtime.com

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