Safe Street Initiative kicks off

Fonda Mayor William Peeler, left, Montgomery County Public Health Director Sara Boerenko, and Department of Public Works Deputy Commissioner Dave Soulia, right, met on Park Street in Fonda on Monday to point out one of the crosswalks that will be painted as part of the Safe Streets initiative to paint crosswalks for the safety of the community. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O’Hara)

FONDA — For the safety of the community and as the weather slowly begins to get warmer with more people enjoying outdoor activities such as walking, going for an early morning jog, or riding a bicycle, representatives of Montgomery County kicked off their Safe Streets Initiative on Monday.

The Safe Streets Initiative is a spin-off of the former New York State Complete Streets program. The initiative is to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicycles, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. The goal is for an easier and safer commute for community members in towns and villages.

Montgomery County Public Health Director Sara Boerenko has been collaborating with Fonda Mayor William Peeler and Ames Mayor Michael McMahon to locate crosswalks that need to be painted in Montgomery County to ensure the goals of the initiative are met.

Boerenko, Peeler and Department of Public Works Deputy Commissioner Dave Soulia met on Park Street in Fonda where one of the faded crosswalks will be painted.

“I felt that it was important we took a look at this initiative to try work and make sure that our crosswalks and our streets were safe, not only for our children since this is a park and we have a lot of schools in the area, but every day as I sit in my office I see kids running across the street, on their bikes and cars not stopping for them,” Boerenko said.

She said the Safe Streets Initiative is also modeled after the project that was done in front of St. Mary’s Hospital with the red crosswalks after someone was hit by a car in one of the crosswalks.

“So, in order to try to prevent a fatality or injury here, part of our project is working in conjunction with our Injury Prevention program as well as our Safe Streets Initiative that we’ve developed,” Boerenko said.

The one crosswalk on Park Street to be painted is located near the park, which Peeler said will soon take on a $700,000 project. As part of the project for the park, Peeler said there will be a new paved parking lot, a stage built, a Veterans’ memorial, and the village will be discussing results from a survey for parks and recreation use that can include a splash park, tennis courts and basketball courts. He said the sidewalk will extend to the corner of the street, there will be public restrooms and new lighting.

Peeler said they are planning on painting other crosswalks and have been working with the Department of Transportation for their cooperation.

“I think it’s important. Not only do we have seniors, but we have young people as well,” Peeler said. “I think it’s important that we do it for all the crosswalks throughout the village.”

Boerenko said she has reached out to other municipalities in the county, but Peeler and McMahon were the first two mayors to respond. She said she would like to expand the initiative to other municipalities.

“I do need to reach out to our municipalities to see at this point what their interest level is,” Boerenko said. “But, I would love to have other municipalities on board with this.”

The costs of the project — which include paint, supplies and manpower — are being covered through a $300 grant through the Mohawk Valley Public Health Improvement plan.

“Unfortunately this was a very small grant for the cost of the paint — $300 — but it did provide enough paint for three crosswalks,” Boerenko said. “Moving forward I would love to take a look at other funding opportunities where I could purchase some of the paint and the supplies and of course the manpower.”

DPW Commissioner Eric Mead has allowed Boerenko to use his staff for municipalities who don’t have the manpower to do the painting.

Painting for the crosswalks won’t begin until May or June because it is still too cold to paint.

“Talking with Mayor Peeler, he was a great partner in taking a look at this to see how we could make the streets safer for our youth and as well as our elderly,” Boerenko said.

She said Peeler was the first mayor to jump on board followed by the Mayor of Ames.

“Soulia took on the initiative of ordering the paint making sure there is enough paint. We chose April 1 because it is the first day of public health awareness week,” Boerenko added.

As part of public health awareness week, Boerenko said they will be encouraging people to increase the amount of water they drink, increase the number of steps they take, and instead of eating an apple a day, eat a banana a day.

“Instead of an apple a day, we’re doing a banana a day because bananas have potassium and we forget that potassium is important,” Boerenko said.

She also suggested people eat their five vegetables, get an annual physical and get annual vaccinations.

By Josh Bovee

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