School District fails in bid for $178K grant

Finance director: Money would have been used to make streets safer

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If the Moffat County School District wants funding for increased infrastructure improvements, it will have to wait until next year.

Moffat County School District applied for a $178,000 grant from Safe Routes to School, which is administered through the Colorado Department of Transportation. Lenore Bates, SRTS coordinator, said the School District missed the final cut.

"They were right below the line," Bates said. "We'll work with them again next year, to try to get them approved."

Mark Rydberg, Moffat County School District finance director, said the district applied for the grant to improve the area around Craig Middle School and Craig Intermediate School.

"The main part was the area around the construction, and we thought it would have made sense to improve the sidewalks while the other construction was going on," he said.

If the School District would have received the grant, the intersection of Ninth Street and Yampa Avenue would have been improved.

"We wanted to create a better walking path to the schools," Rydberg said.

Rydberg said the school district has not yet decided whether it will apply for the grant next year.

"I don't know if going back with the same plan is worth the effort," he said.

Bates said a nine-member committee made up of parents, law enforcement officers and officials from rural and metropolitan areas judged the applications.

"It's a diverse and well-rounded committee," she said. "There's equal representation for rural and metro areas."

Bates said a lot of the money for Safe Routes to School goes to metropolitan areas.

"About 75 percent of the money goes to metro areas, and 25 percent goes to the rural areas," she said. "There's a lot of competition for the rural grants, and sometimes, it takes two or three attempts."

Bates said there were 39 qualified applicants.

"There's limited funding, and we only have a small amount to spread around the state."

The recipients this year included Montrose and Crested Butte.

The money could be used for a variety of uses, Bates said.

"Missing connections in the sidewalk have been repaired, bike paths have been added, signal lights have been put up, evaluating traffic patterns, widening sidewalks from four to eight feet wide," she said. "Any repairs to infrastructure need to be within a two-mile radius from the school."

Bates said Safe Routes does more than just repair infrastructure.

"There's a lot of hands-on training from K through eight," she said. "Typically, we encourage schools to incorporate it into their curriculums - whether it's getting teachers certified or just encouraging everyone to get out and walk or bike to school."

To receive funding, a community must demonstrate a willingness to make its walking routes safer.

"The community needs to be on board," she said. "The community and schools need to promote safe routes. Whether it's moving the bike racks to the front of the school building, or promoting a walk or bike to school day."

Bates said the successful programs had carried the initiative to walk and bike to school to other parts of education.

"We urge schools to incorporate it into the gym schedule and even geography classes," Bates said. "Students have used pedometers to mark how many steps it takes to walk to school and have mapped out routes to school."

The grants range from $50,000 to $250,000.

"When we first started the program, there was no minimum amount," she said. "We had one project for $19,000, and it was decided that a project of that size wasn't big enough to justify subcontracting it out."

Because the larger programs received funding this year, the next tier of candidates will receive funding next year, Bates said.

"We encourage them to try again next year," Bates said. "Now that the top ones are done, they'll have a head start for next year."

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