By DANIEL SUDDEATH
NEW ALBANY —
Main Street will be the focal point of New Albany’s sidewalk repair efforts this year.
During a New Albany Redevelopment Commission meeting this week, administration officials announced they will soon seek bids for sidewalk construction and repair as funded through the federal Community Development Block Grant program.
The plan will be reviewed to possibly include some other streets suggested by commission members, but the primary area for sidewalk work will be along Main from East Fifth Street to Vincennes Street.
John Rosenbarger, public works projects supervisor for the city, said Mayor Jeff Gahan requested this year’s CDBG sidewalk plan concentrate on the Main Street corridor.
Outside of Main Street, administration officials said the city has upgraded sidewalks on many major downtown streets in recent years including Market, Spring and Elm.
“There’s some areas that still need some work, but most of that area has been done,” Rosenbarger said, as he added Ekin Avenue, Oak Street and most of Culbertson Avenue have seen sidewalk upgrades in recent years.
CDBG funds can be used for infrastructure projects and other programs in low-income areas. Last year was a big year for the city’s CDBG initiative, as $678,000 was spent to improve sidewalks off Culbertson Avenue, 11th Street and 13th Street.
Rosenbarger said typically the city spends between $300,000 and $400,000 annually on CDBG sidewalk repairs. The CDBG allotment distributed to New Albany has dropped in recent years, down from a peak of around $1.2 million in 2001 to about $650,000 annually of late.
The city is able to stockpile some CDBG funds for future projects, thus it was able to spend $678,000 last year on sidewalks alone.
The program is a means of upgrading local infrastructure with federal funding, however, which areas are improved with CDBG money has been debated at times.
City Councilman and redevelopment member Dan Coffey questioned how the city prioritizes sidewalk projects. He said most of the sidewalks along Main Street are fine and don’t need to be repaired.
Coffey also criticized the funding that will be required for the city to replace the original material for the Main Street sidewalks that are comprised of brick paths.
“That’s just an expense that we shouldn’t have to be paying,” he said.
The city does use the New Albany firm Jacobi, Toombs and Lanz for aid in forming its CDBG sidewalk plan, and officials with the company agreed to review other areas for possible inclusion at the suggestion of commission members.
Commission member Adam Dickey requested a portion of Country Club Drive near the Graybrook Lane intersection be examined for the sidewalk program, and Rosenbarger said it will be reviewed.
He added a map showing which areas have received sidewalk projects over the past few years will be provided to the body at the request of commission president Irving Joshua.
City officials have said Main Street may see a road improvement project in the near future. New Albany received state funding to take over maintenance of a portion of Ind. 111 — including Main Street — in 2010.