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Workers for Manley Contracting grade freshly poured cement as part of a new sidewalk along Staples Road. The $226,000 project is being paid for with federal Community Development Block Grant money. NEWSTREAMZ PHOTO by BRAD ROLLINS.
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By BRAD ROLLINS
Managing Editor

Furmin Alonzo will probably never use the sidewalk he could see workers building on Wednesday through the living room window of his Staples Road home.

The elderly man can’t walk, he said, but he sees plenty from his worn La-Z-Boy.

“Many kids walk down there to school. Many adults walk there to the store or wherever. Now they won’t have to get mud on their shoes when it’s raining,” Alonzo said.

Nor will students walking to two nearby schools have to risk the steady traffic zipping along the curves near where Staples Road, also Texas 621, intersects Texas 123. Just across the road from the working-class, heavily Latino Wallace Addition, Bowie Elementary is moved to its new campus and the old high school is vacant. But Hernandez Intermediate is just down the road and the former high school is scheduled to reopen next year as the middle school.

On Wednesday, workers for Manley Contracting poured the last segment of the 1,400-foot sidewalk which stretches from Durango to Tampico Streets. Driveways crossed by the sidewalk still have to be replaced as part of the project funded with allocations from the city’s share of federal Community Development Block Grant funds.

The long-awaited sidewalk is also evidence of the city’s significant backlog of unfunded infrastructure projects and the challenges of getting capital improvements done when construction material costs keep rising.

The sidewalk wouldn’t have been built this year at all if officials hadn’t raided another sidewalk project to pay for it.

Since fiscal year 2005, the city has allocated $106,939 in community development block grant for the Staples Road sidewalk. After paying $48,000 to Klotz Engineering for design, there was $57,749 left for construction. Pflugerville-based Manley’s low bid of $178,290 was about three times more than that.

In addition to jumps in the cost of concrete and steel, the bottom line swelled with expensive last-minute changes to the design. The driveway work was added to the blueprint as was removal of remnants of an old sidewalk that Public Works Director Richard Mendoza somehow failed to realize existed until years into the project.

To make up the shortfall, the city council ordered that the balance be taken from the Guadalupe Street sidewalk project, which will connect gaps in an existing sidewalk along the busy arterial street, from near the interstate to Grove Street. It was funded with $109,700 federal grant money in 2005, the same year as the Staples Road project.

Design of that plan is held up any way in reviews by Union Pacific, whose tracks the sidewalk crosses twice, so Mendoza told the council they could use that money for Staples Road now without causing too much of an additional delay in the Guadalupe Street project.

A year earlier, in 2006, Mendoza recommended raiding the Staples Road project for another using similar reasoning. In that case, the Hopkins Street sidewalk extension and bridge over the San Marcos River was considerably over-budget. Council members instructed him to take it out of a tennis court project at Rio Vista Park instead.

Whatever went on at City Hall, residents like Alonzo say they’re glad it got done.

“I’m glad they found the money for it,” he said.

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