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Potsdam village trustee opposed to $27,500 riverwalk application

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POTSDAM — The village’s plan to revitalize its waterfront has raised hackles among at least one skeptical trustee.

“I have the same problem here about committing general fund revenue,” said Eleanor F. Hopke, the sole trustee to vote against the plan. “We have a lot of other things we need to use our general fund revenue for. I just don’t see that this is yet in a position where we know exactly what we’re talking about.”

Mrs. Hopke’s dissent notwithstanding, village officials passed a resolution Monday to submit an application for MAP 21 Transportation Alternatives Program assistance to construct the proposed riverwalk.

With the approval, the village will commit $27,500 in grant funding through the state Department of State’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program to be used for “preliminary architectural design work.” It also will use $74,775 in general fund revenue to “meet the non-federal share of project costs,” according to the resolution.

“The obvious question is ‘What happens if both (project grants) come through?’” village Planning and Development Director Frederick J. Hanss said. “What happens if both come through is that we use a federal fund for a 50 percent share of the local waterfront revitalization program. This kind of approach is used occasionally and it may work in this case.”

Even though village Trustee Ruth F. Garner admitted to having concerns with the project, nonetheless she voted in favor of the spending.

“There are some aspects of this that I don’t like, and I shall continue to speak out about them,” Mrs. Garner said. “But in general I think that it is a very good program. I’m voting yes with reservations.”

Mrs. Hopke was the lone member of the board to vote against the resolution.

The village board adopted the 10-year Downtown and Waterfront Revitalization Plan in 2012. The plan was developed by an advisory committee consisting of village residents and other stakeholders.

Among the plan’s items is development of the downtown riverwalk. The aim is to develop a pedestrian and bicycle path as a safe and convenient route to village destinations. Included in the project is the village’s plan to install signs with directions to key sites.

The walk “would travel down Maple Street to the hydroelectric facility that we just completed on the West Dam,” Mr. Hanss told village board members last month. “Essentially, the plan would be to secure a right of way from Swan Landing and come with a switchback path that would take users up to the Sandstone Drive, where they would come up on the sidewalk. This would be ADA compliant.”

The project’s anticipated budget is approximately $500,000. The estimated costs are based on projections from project engineer Chazen Companies.

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