Next phase of Mystic streetscape has Groton feeling 'little gun-shy'

Groton - The Town Council Committee of the Whole approved the planning department's request Tuesday night to apply for $1.2 million in state and federal funds to pay for Phase II of the Mystic streetscape construction project.

Delayed vehicular traffic and diminished foot traffic on West Main Street this spring and summer during the not-yet-complete Phase I of the project appeared to weigh heavily on some councilors' minds.

They wanted assurance that the project, which includes the installation of sidewalks and curbing, beginning at the south end of the driveway of the Mystic Arts Center and continuing south to Noank Road, would not interfere with the peak season next summer.

"I'm a little gun-shy," Councilor Jim Streeter said. "If at all possible, I'd like to see no construction from the end of May until the start of September. Hey, this thing could go as smooth as peanut butter on toast. But if we run into a jam ... We're all a little gun-shy."

Planning Director Michael Murphy and project manager Rick Norris told the committee that he and Norris were there Tuesday only because the money, while earmarked for the town's use, had to be applied for by early August. The application cannot be filed without a resolution from the council.

The committee's approval is preliminary. Official approval can come only from the Town Council, which has the item on its agenda for Tuesday's meeting.

Murphy said if the council approves the request, the work could go out to bid as early as this fall. But he suggested the best time to start the three-month project would be at the end of February 2013.

Mayor Heather Bond Somers wanted the project done in the fall - if not this year, then next fall. Like Streeter, she and Councilor Bruce Flax were concerned about what would happen if there were bureaucratic setbacks to starting on time or "surprises" during the project.

"If there are any hiccups that delay it until late spring ... I don't think anybody on this council can stomach having any kind of construction going through Mystic in the middle of the season," she said.

"Water Street is a little different from West Main Street," Murphy told the committee. "I think you have to recognize that."

"This project is a lot less onerous," Norris said. "I understand your reticence, based on what's gone on. But this is a lot simpler, more straightforward and where we're working is off the main street."

c.potter@theday.com

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