Steve Presley

Mayor Steve Presley

No new sidewalks will lead to Palestine schools this year. No bike paths, trails, or intersection improvements are on deck, either.

Last month, city council members voted, 4-3, to reject a $1-million federal Department of Transportation grant that would have paid for all that, and more.

The 'Safe Routes to School' grant – federal money distributed through state transportation departments – promotes walking and bicycling to school, as well as safety education.

Mayor Steve Presley, Councilman Mitchell Jordan of District 2, and District 3's Vickey Chivers, who introduced the grant to council, supported the grant.

“I'm disappointed it was voted down,” Presley told the Herald-Press. “I thought the benefits it provided, particularly with sidewalks in the Westwood and Story Elementary area were great.

“It was an opportunity to help our children at the state's expense. The grant was guaranteed, as long as we followed their rules.”

Numerous attempts to contact interim City Manager Leslie Cloer were unsuccessful.

District 4 Councilman Joe Baxter said any expenditure, even one that is reimbursed, is too much for the city to handle now.

“We've got to see where we stand with the money,” Baxter told the Herald-Press Friday. “You can tell me the city can handle it, but until I see it in black and white, I don't want to put out any more money.”

Finance Director Jim Mahoney agreed.

“The city simply doesn't have the money to initiate such huge projects,” he said. “Besides, no one lets their children walk to school anymore; why put out a million dollars in sidewalks?”

Jordan told the Herald-Press the city wasted an opportunity to improve life for Palestine's children.

“Grants like this don't come around often,” he said.