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Paonia okays planning to make project 'shovel-ready'

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The Town of Paonia is moving ahead with a road realignment engineering project, despite not having funds available right this moment, in the hopes that funding soon becomes available through the federal government.

Town administrator Ken Knight explained that funding infrastructure projects was a key message in President Donald Trump's campaign speeches, and in recent weeks there has been talk that the federal government may earmark some money for infrastructure. However, funding like that tends to be given to municipalities that have shovel-ready projects lined up.

In Paonia's case, there have been conceptual drawings in place for some time for a road realignment and sidewalk improvement project at 5th Street near the Subway restaurant. The town has held off on the project for several years due to the anticipated cost, but Knight said he believes it's time to move forward and get engineered plans in place, so that the project is ready to break ground as soon as funding becomes available, either from the federal government or from another funding source.

"I'm not holding my breath on anything positive coming out of Washington, D.C.," Knight said, but added he hopes it's all more than talk out of the feds. "But it would certainly help small towns that are having trouble funding infrastructure," he said.

The conceptual plan calls for a three-phase project, during which sidewalks on the east side of the street would be improved and the east side turn lane reclaimed; sidewalks and a crosswalk on the west side of the street would be added at 4th and Grand, and then connected to existing sidewalk; and the road realigned from a Y intersection to a T intersection. The project also has the benefit of completing part of the requirement of the Safe Routes to Schools project, which required that sidewalks be installed in front of the technical college campus and in front of Subway, allowing for safe routes for kids walking to and from school.

"This will just give us the design so we will be ready to move forward," explained trustee David Bradford, who sits on the public works committee, which submitted the project to the full council for approval. "There is no commitment at this time."

Trustee Suzanne Watson questioned if the area in discussion was all within town limits. Knight explained that portions are not within town limits, but that the town eventually hopes to annex those tracts in question, and with an engineered plan in place, the town will be able to run the show. "Ultimately, we want to drive this truck, and we'll seek county support should we go beyond engineering into construction," he said.

The town is now seeking proposals from engineering firms to complete the drawings. The end result will be a breakdown of costs, time estimates and construction plans for each phase, which will allow the council members to better understand the anticipated costs of the project as they seek out funding.

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