At our last City Commission meeting one citizen addressed the issue of uneven sidewalks and steps around the square and the difficulties encountered by residents and visitors that have mobility problems. Anyone who has visited the square anytime in the past several years is very aware that the sidewalks and all access steps and ramps are inadequate and need extensive rebuilding. This has been an ongoing concern for many years, and the costs of correcting the problems have been considered to be out of reach for the regular budget of our City. As Mayor I have spent many hours trying to come up with a possible solution and writing grant applications addressing this particular issue, but have not met with success in my previous attempts. Last week I became aware of a new funding cycle for the Transportation Enhancement Program and I am intending to go all out and work very hard in the next month to revise and expand the previous grant applications in a new attempt to gain some much needed funding. I have already met this week with Department of Transportation and Texas Transportation Institute consultants, discussed this with our City Administrator and a civil engineer, and have requested help and letters of support from several important individuals.
I have written several previous articles about the problems, and the deterioration of the pedestrian walkways around the square has continued. The City has tried to aid the situation some by installing new handrails, but the real solution is to remove the sidewalks, steps and ramps and rebuild them all with the standards that are expected now. We have done some preliminary engineering design studies to understand the possibilities and what all would be required, but we need to finalize some of our plans in order to present a complete application. This is a complex situation and if we begin to work on the project it will require all of our citizens to be aware and cooperative if we are to make it work, as some businesses and restaurants may need to redirect foot traffic for a short while and all of us would be inconvenienced for a while.
At this time I am still working on the application and the process of identifying the need, and this is where I need your help right now. I need to provide information on the needs for the project and “evidence of public involvement and support” and for this I need your comments. If you have noticed the problems of access around the square, if you or someone you know has tripped or fallen and would like to share your concerns, if you have ideas or suggestions on how to improve the sidewalks and steps, or if you just want to voice your support of correcting this problem in our community I would really like to hear from you today. The expected cost of totally rebuilding the sidewalks and pedestrian access is expected to be greater than $700,000 and without state or federal funding the City cannot begin to address this problem, but I need plenty of public support to suggest that this is an important project and will greatly benefit our community. If you have comments or suggestions, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop a note by the City office or my store, and I will be sure that your voice is heard.
This is one of those situations where I really want to hear your complaints and concerns, so that we can intelligently address the problem and find a solution that will benefit our community. I would like to have over a hundred responses, so if pedestrian access on our square is something that you would like to see changed, send me a note and mention it to your friends and family. Mason is a great hometown, but working together we can make it even better, and this is one time I hope you will take a few minutes right now to let me know how we can deal with this problem and improve our community for the next generation.
Your friend and neighbor, Brent Hinckley