Full disclosure to use part of the well loved poem by Shel Silverstein in the title of this story. This is an economic development story from a contributing writer, Bent County Development Foundation Director Amanda Leck.
Bent County Sidewalk Grant
Sidewalks are one of the top five issues I hear citizens complain about. The Arkansas Valley’s soil structure and composition paired with the reason why we are called the Emerald on the Plains, trees, greatly impact our sidewalks. Often these factors will cause anything formed with cement to crack and shift, leaving us with disjointed, broken, and uneven walking surfaces in our towns. On May 25th, I presented the Bent County sidewalk grant at CDOT’s monthly regional meeting. Afterwards, we received the approval to submit the full application.
What is this grant for?
Within the city of Las Animas, it is to completely replace the sidewalks where they are needed on Carson Avenue from 4th Street, running from north to south, to Highway 50 and in areas branching off of Carson along 5th and 6th Street. It will focus on recommendations by an engineering study, take into consideration an environmental study, and work within CDOT’s state guidelines. This will be primarily in the downtown business district area. Also within the city of Las Animas, this grant would replace the sidewalks around the new workforce housing being built between 5th and 6th Streets and Vigil and Moore Avenues.
Included in this grant is also a request to replace the sidewalks in the town of McClave along 1st Street. When we first heard about this grant, Bent County Commissioner Jean Sykes immediately reached out to me and stated that she’d like for us to pursue this grant because she recognized the need to make the 5 Loaves Pantry in McClave more accessible and knew the City of Las Animas would benefit as well.
When will this happen?
Nothing’s fast in government! We have made it past the initial application stage and have received the approval to submit the full application. It is due by June 3rd. Once approved, we will need to get engineering and environmental studies completed which could change the scope of the grant slightly so that we remain within our budget. Likely, we wouldn’t see groundbreaking on this project until 2023 or 2024.
What about playgrounds and roads and empty storefronts? What about housing and jobs and fixing services people have complained about for years?
There aren’t many “what about’s” that I hear that I haven’t already recognized as an area that needs to improve (I live here too!) or that isn’t already under discussion with elected officials. We have dozens of projects at different stages. Some move faster than others, some are stalled, and others seem like a pipe dream. They are typically long processes and we work at the mercy of budgets and regulations. Are there other things we’d like to prioritize? Usually, but like this project, we wait for the funding and go after it when it becomes available. When the federal and state government set their budgets, they tell us what money is available for which projects, how much we can get, and specifically what it can be used for. Sometimes it is flexible, but other times it is not. We usually don’t sit back and say, “Sure, sidewalks are important, but what we really need is xyz.” Once the larger bodies of government designate what the funds are for, it’s basically money spent and if we don’t go after it, I can assure you, the larger cities will and we end up paying for it anyway, so we try to do what’s sensible and useful for our cities.