Brookline wins grant for 'Safe Routes to School'

BROOKLINE – Before a new selectman was sworn in Monday night, he announced some good news: The town has been awarded a $105,000 federal grant to improve safety at the town’s two elementary schools.

Tad Putney, who was chosen to fill an open seat on the Board of Selectmen, headed a grant-writing task force appointed by the board in March. A stay-at-home father of three, he has led the charge for safer, more pedestrian and bike-friendly streets.

The grant, known as “Safe Routes to School,” will pay for new sidewalks, digital speed feedback signs, a portable “yield to pedestrians in crosswalk” sign, nationally certified bike training classes, and a walking program.

Putney credited the task force, saying its make-up was a key factor in the selection committee’s decision.

“This demonstrates how successful we can be when we put together a task force representing different constituencies,” Putney said during a telephone interview Tuesday morning. “We came out very favorably.”

The newest member of the Board of Selectmen said the task force included school officials, the police chief, the chairman of the Board of Selectmen, the road agent, and two PTO members.

“It’s a tremendous win for not only the children who will be able to walk or bike to school more safely, but also for all of Brookline’s taxpayers,” he said.

Indeed, the grant will fund construction of a new sidewalk starting at the front of the Richard Maghakian Memorial School and running the entire 1,300 feet toward the town’s safety complex. The sidewalk will end at Austin Road.

The grant will also pay for 200 feet of new sidewalk at the Captain Samuel Douglass Academy, starting at the school entrance and proceeding down Townsend Hill Road.

Putney said the town had planned to spend $20,000 a year for the next four years to build the two sidewalks.

The grant saves taxpayers $80,000, Putney observed.

Putney said 24 communities comprising 46 schools competed for the federal money.

The grant application was due and submitted to the state in May, and in July, Putney went to Concord to pitch the town’s application to a selection committee.

Late Monday, he received word that the town had won the grant.

It wasn’t a complete surprise, Putney said.

Last summer, before Putney met with the selection committee, the Nashua Regional Planning Commission ranked communities applying for the federal money.

“Brookline was number one,” Putney said, adding that the grant improves not only community infrastructure, but also community health.

“It gets more kids to walk and bike to school,” he said.

Hattie Bernstein can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 24 or hbernstein@cabinet.com.