Town Gets Grant for Springs School

    A $554,310 grant was announced last week that will be used to make it safer for students to walk and bike to the Springs School.
    From the federal Safe Routes to School program, the grant was the result of a team effort among Springs School representatives and East Hampton Town officials, including Capt. Michael Sarlo of the Police Department and Steve Lynch, the highway superintendent. Elizabeth Mendelman, a member of the Springs School Board and a parent of two girls who attend the school, coordinated the effort, and it was endorsed by the Springs Citizens Advisory Committee.
    The money will pay for a sidewalk along the west side of Springs-Fireplace Road, between Woodbine Drive and Gardiner Avenue, and for changes to a crosswalk at that corner, making it safer for children to cross the road to get to School Street. Speed monitoring signs will also be installed.
    East Hampton Town will pay for and complete the work on behalf of the school. According to Len Bernard, the town budget officer, the project will be in the town’s 2013 capital plan and the money, to be reimbursed by the federal government, will be raised by issuing bonds.
    In presentations to the town board, Ms. Mendelman said that 104 Springs School students live in the vicinity of the new sidewalk, within walking or biking distance of school.     As the student population has increased, so too has traffic in the morning and afternoon when parents drive to school to drop off and pick up their children.      
    The Safe Routes to School program is designed to address not only traffic and ensuing air quality degradation around schools, but to encourage healthy exercise for children who increasingly lead sedentary lives. According to the program’s Web site, “Safety issues are a big concern for parents, who consistently cite traffic danger as a reason why their children are unable to bicycle or walk to school.”
    Ms. Mendelman said that an educational component of the program, to be overseen by Eric Casale, the Springs School principal, and Nina Friscia of the district’s PTA, would work to build parent involvement and support.
     A second phase of the project includes the extension of the sidewalk farther south, between Woodbine Drive and Copeces Lane. This will require coordination with Suffolk County, which owns that section of Springs-Fireplace Road.
    “This is one of the larger grants not related to the environment, storm damage, or landfill closure for the town, that I can think of, in recent history,” Mr. Bernard said. Charlene Kagel, the town’s chief auditor, and Nicole Ficeto, a grants analyst for the town, worked with Ms. Mendelman on the successful application.
    The total grant is more than the $472,000 that had been requested. Engineering plans were developed with the assistance of Tom Talmage, the town engineer, JoAnne Pawhul, the assistant town planning director, and Kevin Ahearn, the deputy highway superintendent. Specific details are to be developed in conjunction with the State Department of Transportation.