How much does a sidewalk cost these days?
In Morristown, about $100 per foot. A sidewalk for one side of an 1,800-foot stretch along James Street–desired by Morris Township residents for safer pedestrian access to town–could cost about $180,000, town Engineer Jeff Hartke told the town council on Tuesday.
That would include curbs, drainage and tree removal, he said, on a night that also included firemen promotions, a new contract for police superior officers, and discussions about perks for elected officials, dangerous street crossings and pending revisions to the town zoning master plan.
Dan Brownstein was one of three Morris Township residents who urged the town to extend its James Street sidewalk to the Township line, near Foote’s Pond. He made a similar appeal last month.
Morris Township’s municipal committee is exploring installation of a sidewalk on its side of James Street as well. Dan said his neighbors include the owners of the Swiss Chalet bakery, who invested heavily in their new Morristown location and believe an extended sidewalk would be good for business.
Another Township resident, Kim Carroll, submitted a letter describing how she did a face-plant, breaking her nose, while trying to avoid a speeding motorist on James Street during a New Year’s Day jog.
A bend in the street near the Morristown Field Club poses risks to people walking to work, schoolchildren and families with baby strollers, asserted Gail Bates.
“I don’t think people understand how many people walk that curve in the road…It’s very dangerous and will only get worse as more development happens. Let’s face it, we’re all in this together. And safety is important to us all,” said Gail, who also raised concerns about speed limits. Posted speeds increase from 25 mph elsewhere on James Street to 35 mph near that curve, she said.
Morristown officials generally have expressed support for the sidewalk extension. Councilwoman Rebecca Feldman pressed the town engineer for a cost estimate, she said, to help her formulate ideas about seeking grants.
Councilwoman Alison Deeb, who walked James Street with the engineer last week, told the Township residents that some accommodation would be necessary for the Loyola House of Retreats, a Jesuit facility. The proposed sidewalk would extend across the front of that property; by law, property owners are responsible for cleaning their sidewalks in bad weather.
Mayor Tim Dougherty said he would investigate the speed limit issue. He suggested the Township residents approach the Morris County freeholders; James Street is a county road and perhaps the county could underwrite the sidewalk project, he said.
IN OTHER BUSINESS…
The Morristown council approved a three-year contract, retroactive to 2012, for 15 superior officers in the police department. Their cost-of-living adjustments are tied to those negotiated with rank-and-file officers, said town Administrator Michael Rogers. Those increases, approved in June, are 1.5 percent, 2 percent and 2.25 percent over the three years, Michael said.
Lifetime health benefits for elected Morristown officials also prompted discussion. Resident Linda Carrington asked the council to drop that perk, which is offered to officials who serve 25 years.
Councilman Stefan Armington said it’s a benefit that somehow survived when council members opted in 2010 to scrap their free health plans. He estimated lifetime coverage could cost taxpayers up to $250,000 per retiree and recommended deep-sixing it going forward, a proposal endorsed by Council President Michelle Dupree Harris, whose 16 years of service would make her closest to qualifying.
Only one former official is eligible for the lifetime coverage, according to the Mayor. That official was not named and it was unclear if the person has requested the benefit.
Bill Byrne, a resident who speaks frequently at council meetings, reiterated his concerns about speeding motorists at downtown intersections and asked for stepped-up police enforcement.
The Mayor and First Lady Mary Dougherty were honored by the Morris Chapter of the Links Inc. for helping them last year with a food drive for the Interfaith Food Pantry.
Former Councilman Dick Tighe was named to a vacancy on the Morristown Parking Authority, after the council deadlocked at its last meeting.
And resident Margret Brady inquired about the status of the town’s master plan revision. Reminding council members that Morristown has an abundance of churches and other tax-exempt properties, she asked officials to put taxpayers first when considering expansion plans by those organizations.
The planning board will hold a public session on the master plan on Oct. 24, the Mayor said.
Several other important dates also were highlighted:
Oct. 12: Shred your documents behind town hall, from 9 am to noon. The cost is $4 per 10-pound box or bag, with proceeds benefiting the Kiwanis Club’s High School Scholarship Fund.
Oct. 16: The town is hosting medical and insurance experts to explain the Affordable Care Act, at 6 pm in town hall. It’s also election day statewide to replace the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg.
Oct. 17: The League of Women Voters hosts a forum for Morristown’s three mayoral candidates, at the Alexander Hamilton School.
Oct. 24: The planning board will discuss its progress on the new town zoning master plan.
Oct. 26: The Interfaith Food Pantry will collect Thanksgiving food items at Milleli’s Auto Repair on 175 Morris St., from 10 am to 2 pm. Nine local organizations, including the Links Inc., are joining forces for this cause.