SARANAC LAKE - The village Board of Trustees got a first-hand look Monday at just how much work it will take to overhaul the village's sidewalks.
"It's very daunting; there's obviously no quick fix," Mayor Clyde Rabideau said Monday after the board toured the village to review the condition of its sidewalks.
Trustees are planning a $1.4 million sidewalk overhaul this year that would replace 4.7 miles of existing sidewalk, build 1.3 miles of new sidewalk and remove just under 2 miles of sidewalk. The other 9 miles of sidewalk in the village would remain unchanged.
Village of Saranac Lake officials read a sign hung from a tree by residents of Prescott Place during their tour of village sidewalks Monday evening. From left are trustees John McEneany and Allie Pelletieri, Community Development Director Jeremy Evans, Mayor Clyde Rabideau and Public Works Superintendent Robert Martin.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
Now they're thinking it will take more than a year.
Traveling in a bright red Adirondack Regional Airport van, which was borrowed from the town of Harrietstown, the board visited each neighborhood in the village over the course of two hours. They followed a color-coded map, drawn up by village staff based on their own observations, that identified which sidewalks they initially wanted removed, replaced or built new.
For much of the tour, the board reviewed the condition of sidewalks from the van, but on several occasions, the mayor and trustees stepped out of the vehicle to walk sections of sidewalk that were slated to be removed or replaced. They also talked with about a half-dozen residents who showed up to meet them. Village Community Development Director Jeremy Evans posted regular notices on Facebook so residents would know when the board was in their neighborhood.
"People that were concerned were out there waiting for us," Rabideau said.
Fairview Avenue resident Claudia Fennell asked the board to fix the sidewalk in front of her house so it doesn't drain into her driveway. Upgrading the village's sidewalks is long overdue, she told the Enterprise.
"I'm glad they're finally doing something," Fennell said. "It'd be nice if they follow through."
The village met several people on Slater Avenue, which would lose its sidewalk under the village's preliminary plan. Pat Moses, speaking from her front porch with her husband Ron, encouraged trustees to keep the sidewalk because it is used regularly by students at nearby North Country Community College. If the sidewalk is removed, the students, retirees and other people who use it will have to walk in the street, said Ginger Dora, another Slater Avenue resident. She encouraged the village to extend the sidewalk, which ends seemingly randomly in front of her house.
On Shepard Avenue, the board had a long talk with Lynne Kemp about the sidewalks on her street. The current proposal is to replace the sidewalk on Shepard's east side, where Kemp lives, and remove the one on the opposite side of the street. But there are utility poles located in the middle of the sidewalk that the village would keep, a common problem throughout the village.
Kemp said she appreciated the board's visit.
"I think this is a great idea," she said. "I was just delighted when I heard they were doing this."
Residents of Prescott Place, where the village has proposed to remove a sidewalk on one side of the street while keeping the other, also made their voices heard. Instead of waiting outside for the board's arrival, however, they wrote "KEEP ONE sidewalk" and other comments on a large cardboard sign that was hung from a small pine tree next to the road.
The board saw the sign as the van drove by and stopped to read the comments. Rabideau wrote on the sign in reply, "We acknowledge and we'll do the best we can."
During the tour, the board agreed with some of village staff's proposals regarding specific sidewalks. For example, the sidewalk on Elm Street - which is in disrepair, doesn't connect to any other existing sidewalks and doesn't get much use - will likely be abandoned and removed.
But other recommendations were questioned. Rabideau said he thought a sidewalk on one side of Virginia Street that was slated to be removed was walkable and could stay.
In some locations, trustees said the amount of work that would be needed to replace or build new sidewalks could be costly or not practical because, for example, the road is too narrow or retaining walls would need to be built. Trustee Jeff Branch suggested the village could put in asphalt sidewalks with a curb in some locations to keep the project's costs down.
Rabideau said the sidewalk work may have to be done over several years.
"I'd still like us to take a big chunk out of it this year," he said. "Obviously it's going to take more than one year. We'll have to look and see what we can do with our own crews, then see what we'll have to sub(contract) out.
"When you do sidewalks, you also look at removing poles, doing curbs, some street rebuilding, drainage issues - the list goes on and on. It's like pulling a string on a sweater.
"It just proves a point that if you don't get caught up with sidewalks and streets, there comes a day where you've got to pay more than you should, and you've got to pay it all at once. And that day has come."