Residents living along Brandon Mill Road said they’d walk everywhere, if they could. But their only option is to walk on the shoulder of the road, and they feel that’s dangerous.
Residents representing eight neighborhoods along the road attended the April 16 City Council meeting and asked council members to give sidewalks on Brandon Mill another look. The residents have formed the Walking Brandon Mill Coalition as a way to bring more attention to their cause, and several of the coalition’s members spoke during the April 16 public comments.
City Council has the option of putting Brandon Mill sidewalks at the top of its “to-do” list in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget, which begins July 1 this year.
Whatever decision the council makes about sidewalks will be based on need and funding, said City Manager John McDonough. Every year, council members rank sidewalk and paving projects using recommendations from city staff. The practice is intended to keep politics out of the process.
Residents living along the road went to the council before the Fiscal 2013 budget was approved, but the project didn’t make the final list. The group hopes two major parks the city is building will convince city leaders to change their minds about their request.
The members of the Walking Brandon Mill Coalition said as the city makes progress building the Abernathy Greenway Linear Park and Lost Corners Preserve, it needs to re-examine its project list. These two parks are located at opposite ends of Brandon Mill, and sidewalks could create a continuous walking path between them.
“It’s about prioritization,” said Cortne Pappas, who lives in Riverside Estates. “… Our thoughts are, as things change with the parks coming online, how about rescoring and reprioritizing? Because you’ve got seven or eight neighborhoods with almost 2,000 people attached to this that have to traverse Brandon Mill to get to the parks, and the only way to do that safely is via automobile. We think that’s kind of insane.”
Since incorporating in 2005, the city has built nearly 10 miles of sidewalks. In Fiscal 2013 City Council approved a $2.6 million budget for its sidewalks program.
Chad Plumly, another member of the Brandon Mill Coalition, said the city did build sidewalks at the north end and south end of Brandon Mill, but the community still needs another mile. The estimated cost would be $1.5 million, Plumly said. He said the neighborhoods would support the city building the sidewalks in phases so it would not have to spend all of that money in a single budget year.
The city manager said the show of support for Brandon Mill sidewalks helps City Council better understand what the community’s needs are. That’s not a guarantee the neighborhoods will get what they want, however.
“We’ve always based ourselves on having an objective scientific approach, a fair needs-based approach, to funding public projects, and this is another example,” McDonough said.
One of the factors council members consider when ranking projects is the availability of right of way. The city already owns all the right of way it needs for the Brandon Mill sidewalks, Plumly said.
Plumly said Fulton County also did some of the work prior to the city’s incorporation.
“Fulton County government almost put sidewalks in 50 years ago,” Plumly said. “They were ready to go. They put gravel in and they just never put the concrete in. So it’s been graded … and no trees would be impacted. There are some issues with topography and we understand that, but we also understand it would connect two parks.”
Plumly and the group members say they plan to keep up their campaign to convince City Council to add their project to the list as hearings on the Fiscal 2014 budget begin.
Dan Berger, another member of the group, said the neighborhoods on Brandon Mill want the same treatment the city gave to other neighborhoods that received sidewalks.
“I think the city recognizes that it needs to be done,” Berger said. “We would just like it to be a little higher on their priority list than it has been up until now.”