The Denton school district will continue discussions later this month on whether to split 20 percent of the cost of sidewalk improvements near Wilson and Pecan Creek elementary schools with the city of Denton.
If the project moves forward, the bulk of the improvements would be funded with money administered by the North Central Texas Council of Governments.
The project is estimated to total $471,120. If the school district and city agree to a 20 percent local match, they would each put in $47,112 for the project, and construction would likely begin in 2014, with design and right of way coordination by the city in October 2013.
In a joint meeting in March, NCTCOG representatives offered to work with the school district and the city to coordinate transportation projects and assist in improving some paths near and around school sites.
Denton school representatives and city officials from Denton and Corinth met with NCTCOG staff members in April to discuss projects they could collaborate on that would be “mutually beneficial to all constituents,” said Rod Reeves, the district’s facilities and planning coordinator. In June, a follow-up meeting was held, and the group looked at sources for funding projects.
The meetings resulted in the school district and city requesting funding through the Regional Transportation Council for improvements near Wilson and Pecan Creek elementary schools. The council, chaired by Denton Mayor Pro Tem Pete Kamp, is the transportation policy body of NCTCOG.
“I hope it provides better connectivity between neighborhoods to schools,” Reeves said.
At a school board meeting last week, Reeves said improvements are slated for an area near Pecan Creek Elementary, going north on Swisher Road. Improvements will be made to Hanover Drive facing north toward Wilson Elementary.
The projects will benefit not just students but also local residents who will use the routes as walkways.
Other projects considered were routes along FM2181 near Guyer High School and Nelson Elementary and McKinney Street near Ryan High School.
However, Reeves said, the group decided to pursue other projects knowing that future improvements will be made to those routes when the roadways are expanded by the Texas Department of Transportation.
“For us to put in sidewalks that would be ripped up later, we didn’t feel was the best use of funds,” Reeves said.
According to a letter addressed to school district Superintendent Jamie Wilson and Denton City Manager George Campbell on Aug. 9, NCTOG identified funding for the projects through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program. The program would provide funding for 80 percent of the project, $376,896, with a local match covering the remaining balance.
If an agreement is reached, Wilson said the district would pay 10 percent from its general fund.
He said the district is expected to discuss the proposal further at a meeting Sept. 25, with the board expected to make a decision at a meeting in October.
“The ball’s in our court of making sure we feel comfortable with where the project stands,” Wilson said.
School board members were briefed of the update at last week’s meeting.
Trustees who offered their opinion on the project last week said they favored it and were pleased to see the three entities collaborating.
“I don’t see a downside to this at all,” board member Charles Stafford said at the meeting. “I think this is really cool.”
Mark Nelson, the city’s transportation director, said that once Denton officials learn the school district’s intent on the local match, the project will move forward. He said he expects the project to be brought before the City Council within the next six weeks.
Funding from the city’s end would come from capital improvement programs funds, Nelson said.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to save our entity funds while improving infrastructure and safety for our community,” he said.
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