Last week, the Westport News reported on First Selectman Jim Marpe’s announcement of budget plans that include $50,000 for sidewalk improvements along Imperial Avenue.

What the first selectman's announcement neglected to mention is that in 2013 the town applied for and received a $500,000 Main Street Investment Fund (MSIF) grant from the state of Connecticut.

In seeking the grant, the town in its application represented that more than 70 percent of the funds (or around $360,000) would be used to provide “improved pedestrian sidewalk access from residential neighborhoods into our downtown center.” The town specifically identified the need to extend existing sidewalks on Imperial and Myrtle avenues (both roads with dangerous curves and incomplete sidewalks) as a priority in the grant application. The sidewalk extensions for Imperial Avenue alone were estimated to cost at least $180,000.

Two years later, however, it now appears (from the article in the News) that the town has decided to forgo the sidewalk improvements referenced in the grant and instead has opted to use the MSIF money on the decorative lampposts recently installed along Main Street.

While the new lights are a nice addition, such aesthetic improvements should not have been made at the expense of creating the long-overdue sidewalk improvements that are desperately needed on the arterial streets leading to downtown. It is doubtful that an affluent town like Westport would have been awarded the full grant if the application had focused on decorative lampposts.

As Westport enters the upcoming budget cycle, our elected officials need to make sure that the sidewalk improvements — which the town itself specifically identified as the foundation of the MSIF grant application — are fully funded and implemented.

For the new year, let’s resolve to make our town’s streets safer for pedestrians.

Jennifer Johnson

Representative Town Meeting

District 9 member