RUMFORD — Selectmen may have placed an $80,000 grant to the town in jeopardy by voting Thursday night not to change a section of York Street to one-way traffic.

At issue was a Maine Department of Transportation recommendation after the grant was awarded. The recommendation was to change the traffic flow for the addition of a sidewalk for schoolchildren through the section from Maine to Oxford avenues to Rumford Elementary School.

Additional sidewalks via the grant are also planned around three sides of the old Stephens High School lot on Essex and Oxford avenues and York Street.

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.

At a previous board meeting, she said the town isn’t 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.

While conceding that he didn’t want to lose the federal Safe Roads to School grant, Selectman Greg Buccina said he also didn’t want to create traffic hazards on nearby streets should the 26-foot-wide street section be reduced to one-way traffic.

“With all due respect to the lady who wrote the grant and because I really strongly feel that we’re setting up the possibility for an accident at another intersection, I think it should be made clear to (MDOT) that we approved the grant before their recommendation,” he said.

“So, personally, I would refuse it on those grounds and I take the risk (of losing the grant), and maybe I’m way off.”

Selectmen then voted 4-1 on Buccina’s motion against changing the traffic pattern. Chairman Brad Adley dissented.

About 40 minutes earlier, Town Manager Carlo Puiia began discussion by recapping the board’s decision to table the matter at its March 17 meeting. They wanted Puiia to find out if the grant would be affected if they didn’t OK adding a sidewalk and changing the traffic flow.

Puiia said he learned since then from Norman Baker, the project manager of MDOT’s multimodal program, that the grant has been denied in some communities because of a location change.

“That is not what is happening here,” Puiia said. “But he says it may jeopardize the project because of a request to change the scope of the project.”

“So in other words, if there was not a sidewalk installed in that section, that changes the scope of the project.”

He said MDOT recommended that the town change the traffic pattern after learning the street’s reduced width with the addition of sidewalk during its design process. The affected section would be too narrow for two-way traffic.

Selectman Mark Belanger said his only concern was when they first reviewed the grant proposal and approved Soucy’s pursuit of it, that there wasn’t any mention of changing that section to one-way traffic.

Belanger also wondered aloud if the change would interfere with a funeral parlor’s business in the vicinity, with people driving to and from services and parking in the area.

“It certainly would be an adjustment for people who live in that area and use that area,” Puiia said.

But he wasn’t sure if the change would impact the business. Neither was Buccina.

Buccina said the change would move a current bottleneck closer to a hillside intersection, creating greater risk for drivers.

After more discussion, Buccina asked Puiia what would happen should selectmen OK the change, have the sidewalk built, and then learn the one-way traffic causes a problem, and then remove the sidewalk.

After laughter from the crowd subsided, Puiia reading from the grant contract, said it could mean the town would have to reimburse the state the grant money.

Buccina then motioned against approving the change altogether.

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