Licking County News

Southwest Licking

Board to revisit Watkins Road sidewalk plan

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Southwest Licking school board President Don Huber said Feb. 20 the Watkins Road sidewalk project needs to come off the back burner for the sake of students who walk to school.

"The sidewalks are not adequate," he said.

Huber said that when the Watkins Grove subdivision originally was planned, developer Joshua Homes promised in writing to provide a sidewalk from Refugee Road to the high school and middle school.

"We had that all tidied up," Huber said.

Then Joshua Homes went out of business.

"So now we have an iron-clad contract with a nonexisting company, and no sidewalk," Huber said.

Huber said the Watkins Road area is unsafe for pedestrians in general and something needs to be done, even without Joshua Homes' funding.

"Joshua Homes is not around to help with it," he said. "They were only going to do part of it, anyway."

Board member Daniel Bell said the district should take advantage of the state's Safe Routes to School program, which provides funding for safety upgrades on routes students walk to school. However, he said, the school district cannot apply for the funding.

"It's not something we can do," Bell said. "The municipality has to do it."

Bell said school board members would need to contact the township trustees or city administration governing the region through which the sidewalks pass and ask them to petition the state on the school district's behalf.

"So we want to approach them and have them take that action," Bell said.

Huber said Pataskala officials already have done that.

"In fact, they took the lead and came to us," Huber said, adding that the cooperation helped fund sidewalk upgrades around Pataskala Elementary School.

Missing sidewalks were filled in around Pataskala Elementary School on High, Second, Granville, Cedar and Broadway streets and Tyler Avenue and school crossing signs improved around the building though a $480,000 grant from the Safe Routes to Schools program.

"But Watkins Road is really a problem for walkers," Huber said.

Superintendent Robert Jennell said he's contacted Etna Township trustees about Watkins Road.

"Let's get it on the agenda," Huber said. "We've been letting it slide by for a while and we need to pick it up."

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