Safe Routes grant gets 18-month timeline
City leaders hopeful plan can be agreed on
October 01. 2013 9:49AM
The fate of a $75,181 Safe Routes to School grant was given 18 months to “survive” last week.
Following more than a year of discord over the proposed path, the Brandon City Council gave the grant project, which was awarded in June 2012, a deadline of June 2014.
“I’m afraid to give the grant away when it’s something that’s needed and the community wants,” said Alderwoman Mindy Hansen.
Alderman Blaine Jones agreed that a deadline should be set, suggesting June of next year.
“I do feel that when the dust settles on this project and calmer heads prevail (we can come to an agreement),” he said.
Over the last year, city leaders have battled negativity from the proposed path’s adjacent residential neighbors. And earlier this year, the Brandon Lutheran Church Council requested that the easement, which had been approved by a prior BLC Council, be vacated.
The City Council approved that request.
A Sept. 3 letter to the Brandon City Council from the BLC Council and Pastor Scott Hackler says the church wishes to cut ties with the Safe Routes proposal at this time.
“The Brandon Lutheran Church council has unanimously voted to discontinue consideration of current proposals and disengage from current leadership,” the letter read. “We do intend, however, to continue internal discussions in council and with our congregation and Bryan Read’s office to research how we can take a proactive approach on how this portion of our property can be utilized to benefit both the church and the community.”
To allow use of the easement now, Hansen suggested that the city mark the easement and have one of the three homeowners move his fence off of the easement.
“(We need) to try to get people to stay within the easement to get people walking where they should be,” Hansen said.
Jones again supported the idea, and said the City also needs to get the OK from the BLC Council to allow people to walk across the church property.
While BLC has cut ties with the plans for now, residents who would benefit from the proposed path, spoke in support of the path.
“I would still like the City to do something in establishing that public easement,” resident Kevin Smith said. “The plan make look different than it does now, but it could benefit people for a long time.”
Middle school student Alexa Kruse offered comments of the paved pathway. “I would also approve of something being paved there … (because) I don’t want to be chastised for walking there.”
Residents and students who have been using the unofficial pathway have been confronted by Rich Kluin, whose fence sits on the easement. The Brandon Council has decided that Kluin will need to move his fence off of the easement.
“My understanding is that the easement was there prior to any homes being built,” said homeowner Doug Waller. “I’m not here to make enemies of the parties that oppose it. I think if it’s done correctly, the path could be a benefit … not just for a small group of people that live in Switch Grass. But at this point is seems to be a no-win situation for everybody. It’s a sad day for Brandon, the community and everyone.”
Kelly Kruse also agrees that the Kluin’s fence needs to be relocated.
“If Mr. Kluin’s fence is in the easement, then it needs to be moved,” Kruse said.
The South Dakota Department of Transportation awarded the $75,181 Safe Routes to School grant to Brandon in June 2012. The plan was to construct an eight-foot wide sidewalk 600 feet in length. The concrete path was intended to be a safe passageway from the Switch Grass Trail neighborhood to the middle school.
While one Brandon neighborhood is battling over a proposed path, another neighborhood is asking for a sidewalk.
Seasson and Peter Vitiello, 1309 Creekside Drive, have asked City leaders to consider a sidewalk along Holly Boulevard from the Eagle Creek community located on Brandon’s west side. “The number of young families in our west-side community has significantly increased,” the Vitiellos wrote in their letter. “Adding a sidewalk along Holly Boulevard will serve to increase safety and allow for us on the west side to explore Brandon businesses and shop locally, thus increasing the connectedness of the entire community.”
The Vitiellos say they have observed people walking, running and biking along Holly Boulevard, prompting them to suggest a sidewalk or some sort of footpath.