Westerly announces work to address chronic downtown problems

Westerly announces work to address chronic downtown problems

The Westerly Sun

WESTERLY — Three downtown improvement projects were announced Monday morning during a meeting hosted by the town and the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce at Town Hall. The chamber also revealed that Westerly is one of 25 quarterfinalists still competing for $25,000 to be used for revitalization projects in a nationwide contest.

Main Street, often pointed to as an embarrassing example of a failing municipal road system, will be milled and repaved in the fall, Town Manager Derrik M. Kennedy announced. The project is estimated to cost $350,000. The funds will come from the $6 million municipal bond approved by voters in 2014 for road, sidewalk and drainage projects.

“That leads into what we plan on doing over the next couple of years where we start to work with the Main Street business owners to beautify the area. This really is the entrance to Rhode Island and to Westerly for a lot of people who come in and we want to make sure its looks as nice as possible,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy also announced plans to repaint traffic lines on High Street and to re-engineer parking spaces adjacent to downtown crosswalks as a means to improve safety for pedestrians. In the current configuration parked cars obscure the view of the crosswalks. New signs aimed at helping motorists navigate the quirky downtown traffic pattern are also planned and Kennedy said officials are considering a request to paint the speed limit on the road surface on High Street.

The third project, replacement of an underground stormwater culvert in the area of the post office on High Street, will start in the fall and is set for completion next spring. Test pits for the $1.5 million project will be dug this month, Kennedy said. The project is being paid for through a federal Community Development Block Grant obtained by the town as part of its recovery from Superstorm Sandy, Kennedy said. The culvert failed in 2014 and received a temporary patch.

Additionally, repairs will be made to deteriorating sections of sidewalks in the downtown area, and three security cameras, donated to the town by the Chamber foundation, will soon be installed. The parking lot adjacent to the post office, which the town leases from the U.S. Postal Service, will be repainted, and to address a chronic problem, Kennedy said, police recently stepped up enforcement of downtown parking limits.

At 10:02 a.m., Lisa Konicki, Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce president, announced that the town remains in the running for the prize money in a contest organized by Independent We Stand, a conglomeration of small businesses that promote a shop local ethos. Contestants were required to keep the news quiet until 10 a.m. The organization is sponsored by Stihl Inc. and also receives support from Pittsburgh Paints, the North American Retail Hardware Association, Do It Best Corp., and Alignable, a network of small businesses.

The chamber nominated the town in late March and encouraged local residents to vote early and often. The semifinalists were the top vote getters in a group of 242 entries. In many cases, Konicki said the town is competing with much larger population centers.

“What they don’t have more than us is a bigger heart and a bigger potential to rally the potential of its citizens,” Konicki told an audience of about 50 in the Council Chambers at Town Hall.

The chamber, Konicki said, will engage in another campaign aimed at encouraging voting at mainstreetcontest.com. One vote every 24 hours per IP address is permitted. Voting runs through May 28, after which a group of semifinalists will compete in a new round of voting.



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