For awhile, it looked like years of lobbying by Morris Township residents finally might pay off with a James Street sidewalk linking them with downtown Morristown.
But the joint project appears to have hit a dead end.
Township officials did not include any money in their 2014 municipal budget for the township side of the walkway, indicating they were waiting for Morristown to allocate funds for its portion.
On Tuesday, Morristown council members raised questions that suggested their support may be waning for the town’s part, an 1,800-foot stretch of sidewalk from the Township line to Foote’s Pond estimated to cost about $180,000.
Councilman Stefan Armington contended that Township residents stand to gain more benefits from new a new sidewalk–if indeed they actually would walk all the way into Morristown–and so the Township ought to sweeten the deal with value-adds for Morristown residents.
“We should get something out if it,” Stefan said.
That something, he said, might include extending Township sidewalks in the vicinity of Morristown’s Burnham Park swimming pool, and linking Cory Road and Emmet Avenue with a sidewalk to accommodate pedestrians walking to the new ShopRite of Greater Morristown.
Councilwoman Alison Deeb, whose ward includes James Street, expressed surprise at those add-ons. She also voiced frustration that the council did not telegraph its interest to Morris Township by adopting a sidewalk resolution last year as she had requested.
While some Township residents have spoken at Morristown meetings in favor of the sidewalks–citing safety of pedestrians, joggers and schoolchildren attending the Thomas Jefferson School–Councilwoman Raline Smith-Reid said other homeowners may not welcome the maintenance liability that comes with sidewalks.
Council President Rebecca Feldman said she favors more study to determine costs and how to fund them.
“I would like to see both communities come up with a plan, with equal investment, so people can get to where they swim, or work, or dine, or play,” she said.
Tim Dougherty, Morristown’s mayor, said he will reach out to his counterpart in the Township, Mayor Bruce Sisler, for a “broader conversation.”
The Morris Township committee has received “repeated requests” from James Street residents for a sidewalk, Committeeman Jeff Grayzel said at the committee’s meeting of March 19, 2014.
He noted his heightened appreciation for pedestrian safety concerns since being struck by a car in a Morristown crosswalk last month, he said.
“I’m lucky I didn’t break any bones and I’m able to walk today. It could have been a lot worse,” Jeff said.
The James Street sidewalk was not included in the Township budget, he said, “because Morristown has not committed to fund their portion.”
The committeeman said he would urge his counterparts on Morristown’s council to press Mayor Dougherty to add funding in the town budget, which has not been introduced yet.
Jeff also asked Township Administrator Tim Quinn to explore grant opportunities for the sidewalk extension. Officials say the matter is complicated somewhat by the fact that jurisdiction for James Street rests with Morris County.
Video of comments by Jeff Grayzel. Video by Lee Goldberg.