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City gets serious about its sidewalks

"Everyone agrees that the Bay Street marquee sidewalks, portions of which are riddled with cracks and crags, need to be repaired or replaced.Some funds are already in place, though plans are far from concrete.Downtown sidewalks are in terrible condition, and it's obvious they need to be redone, said Mallory Jackson, owner of Bay Street Custom Picture Framing in downtown Port Orchard. Any fix will be complicated, though, since the sidewalk along the north side of Bay Street rests on a bulkhead and piers that support downtown buildings. The city is paying Seattle-based engineering firm Gary and Osborne $26,000 to figure it all out. Two engineers are expected to produce a design-study package, in which repair alternatives, related costs and funding options are explored.Gray and Osborne engineers and city officials are hosting the first in a series of three public meetings on the matter at 7:30 p.m. March 15 at City Hall. Up for discussion will be current marquee-sidewalk conditions, repair strategies and aesthetic considerations for Bay Street sidewalks.Two repair options are currently at the forefront: Total replacement, which could be costly and pose water quality problems. Another alternative is grinding, a method that involves grating the top two inches of concrete from the sidewalks and filling them in with new material. Engineers Tamara Nack and Terry Martin said they hope for a high turnout at the meeting.Public opinion will play a large role in any project decisions, Martin said. We certainly want to go out and gauge public opinion as far as esthetics are concerned as well.Nack and Martin said theme-like patterns could be etched in concrete, or tile could be used, or even brick. Artistic alternatives are never-ending.I'd really like to see what ideas come out of the meeting, Jackson said. We (members of the Bay Street Merchants Association) should have a good turnout that night because there is a regular merchants' meeting that same day.Yet aesthetics isn't too much on the minds of many Bay Street merchants and shoppers. Most just want a nice, smooth surface to travel on. The rest, they say, is just icing on the cake.Sue Nelson, who co-owns Cubbyhole Educational Books and Toys with her daughter Penny Whitcomb, said sidewalk safety is key above all.There are many unsafe spots, she said. Nelson and her daughter have operated the children's store on Bay Street over the last five years. In that time, she's observed pedestrian woes. There are cracks people could trip on, and some (patchwork) repairs (on the sidewalk) have chipped off, Nelson said.Sidney Village owner Brenda Zink-McKee has seen and heard of many shoppers tripping, falling and hurting themselves. Zink-McKee said she's glad the city is addressing sidewalk issues but would also like crosswalks downtown to be improved. For whatever reason, she said, many drivers just don't stop for pedestrians trying to cross Bay Street. She remembered being in a crosswalk with her husband one day when he pulled her away from an oncoming car that didn't yield for the crossing couple. I could reach out and pat the hood of the trunk, it was so close, she said."

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