$150,000 federal grant likely to pay for work on town streets

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FARMINGTON – Selectmen will appoint a Citizens Advisory Committee Tuesday to finalize plans to refurbish Church Street and the surrounding area using money from a Community Development Block Grant.

Town officials were recently notified that $150,000 in government money has been set aside to make Church and Coney streets more pedestrian-friendly.

Town Manager Richard Davis said Tuesday that although the application process for the Community Development Block Grant is not finished yet, Farmington has gotten through the hardest part, in which towns statewide compete for the government grant money.

“Once you’ve been invited into phase two you know you’re funded,” he said. “$150,000 has been set aside for our project, and what we need to do next is appoint a committee and submit additional information about what we plan to do, what our budget is, and where the (matching) funds come from.”

CDBG grants do not require matching funds, Davis said, but routine road work, which is part of the plan to refurbish Church Street, is not covered by CDBG grants, requiring Farmington to come up with that part of the funding. Davis said estimates for the work hover around $37,000 to $40,000.

Davis said selectmen and other town officials hope that by reconstructing Church Street, installing drainage, lighting, and a sidewalk, and creating a more visible path between Church Street and nearby parking lots, pedestrians will use that part of the downtown more. He said that currently, business owners in the Church Street Commons – formerly the Knowlton McLeary building – report that walking along the side of the building from parking spaces going either inside or along Church Street is nearly impossible, as there is no walkway and cars often park right up against the building.

To do that, officials will need permission from residents to make Church Street one way in a special town meeting sometime this year, Davis said, “to relieve some of that congestion.” He said he plans to install signs and lighting along the sidewalk and then up toward the Anson Street parking lot, in hopes that more people will start using the lot, which he says is “underutilized.”

“So you could, on a Friday evening, park up there and follow this well-lighted pathway,” Davis said. Town officials also hope to install decorative lighting and historical plaques along the alley running between Renys and Church Street, he added.

This is all about supporting the local businesses by making our downtown pedestrian friendly,” he said. Church Street Commons now has a mixture of non-profit and for-profit business tenants.

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