RUMFORD — Selectmen tabled a decision Thursday night on whether to change a section of York Street from Maine to Oxford avenues to one-way traffic.
At issue is an $80,000 Safe Roads to School grant that Rumford has already received and a Maine Department of Transportation recommendation to change the traffic flow to add a sidewalk for schoolchildren through the section to Rumford Elementary School.
Selectmen voted 4-0 to table it after board member Greg Buccina said they need to know if the grant would be affected if they do not approve adding a sidewalk and changing the traffic flow.
Additional sidewalks via the grant are planned around three sides of the old Stephens High School lot on Essex and Oxford avenues and York Street.
Rumford Public Works Superintendent Andy Russell said the total amount of new sidewalks proposed is from 1,700 to 1,800 feet.
He said he didn't put any money in his budget for sidewalks, figuring to use the grant money.
Laurie Soucy, Regional School Unit 10's health coordinator, wrote the grant three years ago on behalf of the town to prevent children from walking in the street, she said.
She said the town is not required to provide any kind of a match to get the grant, because the area of concern is in the vicinity of a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school.
Earlier during a 45-minute public hearing, property owners who would be inconvenienced by the traffic flow change, spoke out against it.
Larry Murphy Sr., who lives on the corner of the Oxford and York intersection, worried aloud about an increase in traffic that he believes would happen with the traffic flow change. He suggested making the street one way in the opposite direction toward Maine Avenue.
Town Manager Carlo Puiia said the grant was sought not to inconvenience property owners but to provide safe routes for schoolchildren.
“We know that ... to change from what we're used to, it makes it difficult for one to accept or grasp the change, but what was the motive or reasoning the grant was applied for?” he asked.
“Again, it was safety. We know it's going to cause inconveniences for you who live in that section to change what you're accustomed to,” he said.
Soucy reiterated what Puiia said, saying she wrote the grant to provide a safe route to and from school for students. She said she has stopped using that section of the road because she doesn't believe it's safe for adults and children.
Selectman Jeremy Volkernick said he wouldn't support adding new sidewalks, worrying about future upkeep when the town can't maintain the sidewalks it has.
In the board's meeting that followed and prior to the vote to table, Buccina said that redirecting traffic flow would create more problems on other roads.
“I'm not opposed to it, but it's quite a change,” he said.