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Spencer may apply for federal money to help build sidewalks

By Holly Fesperman Lee

Salisbury Post

SPENCER — A new federal program may be the answer to keeping children safe on their way to school in the North Rowan area.

Members of the Board of Aldermen discussed the Federal Safe Routes to School Program at their monthly meeting Tuesday. The discussion came as a way to get funds to build sidewalks at North Rowan Elementary and North Rowan Middle schools.

At last month’s meeting, Mayor Alicia Bean talked about the lack of sidewalks around North Rowan schools and said the problem was a disaster waiting to happen.

The town doesn’t have the manpower to place police officers at every corner during times when school traffic is heavy and all schools are on state roads.

The state would have to install the sidewalks and the curb and guttering to go with them and it hasn’t had the money to do that, Dick Paestella, town superintendent, said at last month’s meeting.

Town Manager Larry Smith gave a presentation on the Safe Routes to School Program and said chances were good that Spencer may get funding.

The program is not in place yet in North Carolina, but the money has been allocated and is set to begin in April, Smith said.

The purpose of the program is to enable and encourage children to walk or bike to school, make walking or biking safer and facilitate related projects in the school vicinity.

The program has $612 million to spread over five years across 51 departments of transportation. The plan is for each state to have a full-time program coordinator, and North Carolina currently has an interim coordinator, according to Smith.

“We’re really good candidates once this thing gets off the ground,” Smith told Aldermen.

One of the things helping Spencer’s chances is the close proximity of the elementary and middle schools.

The program doesn’t support improvements for high schools, but since the high school is within two miles of the elementary and middle schools, it may also see some benefit. All improvements must be made within a 2-mile radius of the chosen school.

Smith said the town has the application form and will work with the school system to get it filled out.

The questions are very detailed and obviously need to be filled out by the school or central office personnel, according to Smith.

Basically, the town’s role will be working with the Department of Transportation– the state will actually implement the program if Spencer’s projects are approved.

Bean said the town could do the project on its own with the state but that would be costly.

“I think this is our best bet,” she said.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting:

* Police Chief Robert Bennett announced that Marcos Rodrigeuz will be the new North Rowan High School Resource Officer.

Rodrigeuz moved to North Carolina last year but was previously a 16-year veteran of the Miami-Dade Police Department in Florida.

Rodrigeuz is currently completing training needed for law enforcement officers in North Carolina. Bennett said Rodrigeuz is fluent in Spanish.

Bean asked Rodrigeuz if he had ever been on the TV show “COPS.” He said no, but added he did appear in an episode of “CSI Miami.”

* Land Manager Dustin Wilson announced that all businesses must pay for their garbage carts by Jan. 31. He’s had trouble collecting some of the money.

* Larry Smith said the sludge spill at the former Color-Tex plant is still being cleaned up. According to Smith, a reputable environmental cleanup company has gotten involved in the past month.

The company is also offering to help owners Dave Risdon and Frank McGuire with a permanent cleanup solution for the wastewater lagoons, Smith said.

Contact Holly Lee at 704-797-7683 or hlee@salisburypost.com

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