Florala awarded $200K to get kids walking

Published 12:07 am Wednesday, July 28, 2010

­Those students wishing to walk or ride their bikes to Florala High School in the upcoming school year will soon have new sidewalks for their journey.

Mayor Robert Williamson said Monday the city has been awarded a $200,232 Safe Route to School Grant, which will pay for the installation of sidewalks and school zone traffic striping in the city to Florala High School following the closing of Florala City Middle School. The sidewalks will run along Begonia Street to Hwy. 85; from Sixth Street to Begonia Street; and along First and Second Avenues from Hwy. 85.

Research shows that 30 years ago, roughly 60 percent of children living within 2-mile radius of a school walked or biked to school. Today, that number has dropped to less than 15 percent.

The Safe Routes to School program’s concept is to increase the number of children who walk or bicycle to school by funding projects to remove the barriers such as lack of infrastructure, an unsafe infrastructure, the lack of programs that promote walking and bicycling through education or encouragement programs aimed at children, parents and the community, that would prevent students from doing so.

The funds will be administered through the Alabama Department of Transportation.

“The SRTS grant was truly a combined community effort,” Williamson said. “First, thanks to Tim Ramsden of CDG Engineers for making the city aware of the grant; the Florala City Council for voting to move forward with the effort; FHS Principal Donnie Powell for arranging a meeting with students concerning the matter, and a huge hats-off to (then-FCMS) Principal Rodney Drish, who convinced students and parents to sign letters in support of pursuing the grant.

“Without each component, Florala would likely not have been awarded the SRTS funding,” he said.

Work will begin as soon as DOT gives clearance for the project.

Additionally, Williamson said he met with county schools superintendent Terry Holley concerning the city taking back the FCMS building. He said the city attorney is in the process of drawing up paperwork for the transaction. Since the school has ceased operations as an educational facility, ownership of the property reverts back to the city.

City council members also agreed to have the building’s utilities transferred into the city’s name on July 30.