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Installing sidewalks along Buck Island and Simmsonsville roads near the site of the new Bluffton Middle School will be a top priority in the next year if recommendations by the Bluffton Planning Commission are approved in May by Town Council.
The commission voted Wednesday on a proposed capital improvement project program for 2011, with the sidewalks pushing out a proposed Buckwalter Place infrastructure project as a top goal. Planning commission members cited the safety of neighborhood school children as their primary concern.
"I would argue that these kind of economic development activities be set aside and not compete with other projects like affordable housing and neighborhood sidewalks," commission member Emmett McCracken said.
The town wants to build five-foot asphalt sidewalks along parts of both Buck Island and Simmonsville roads, a project estimated to cost about $1.052 million and to be completed in four phases.
The town allocated $300,000 in this year's budget for sidewalk projects, with Buck Island and Simmonsville roads as the priority neighborhood. That amount, however, would pay only for the first phase along Buck Island Road north of Hyon Road, the site of the new middle school. The second phase would cover Simmonsville Road.
The commission approved a recommendation to spend $25,000 for the project's second phase.
Although town staff submitted a plan for upgrades to existing Buckwalter infrastructure, including roads, drainage, lighting and parking, no town funding was proposed. Instead, planners suggested continuing a "collaborative pursuit of development opportunities."
Town Engineer Bob Fletcher said Buckwalter Place -- which has been designated as a multi-county industrial park -- is one of the few areas in the town set up for economic development.
"There's a lot of interest there," Fletcher said, "but no funding has been authorized. The issues there are different than a traditional capital improvement funding project."
The planning commission also ranked the completion of improvements to DuBois Park and phase two of the May River and Bruin roads Streetscape project as top goals for 2011. The recommendations are expected to be presented in May to Town Council for final approval.