Project offers safe route to school

Thursday, November 19, 2009
Ceremony marks completion of sidewalk project Democrat Photo Webster County Excavating, LLC, recently completed a 1,500-foot sidewalk extension along Highway Y that connects Wildcat Drive to Partridge Drive. The project was a collaborative effort between the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), the Cassville R-IV School District, the Barry County Commission and the City of Cassville. Community leaders and family and friends of Cassville High School student Michael Galyen, who was killed in a car-pedestrian accident on Highway Y in 2007, gathered near Wildcat Drive for a ribbon cutting ceremony on Nov. 16.

After over a dozen years of planning, Cassville R-IV School District students now have a safer route to travel to school. A project that added around 1,500 feet of sidewalk on the east side of Highway Y from Wildcat Drive to Partridge Drive was completed by Webster County Excavating, LLC, this month.

"The planning process for this project began well over 12 years ago with then city administrator Greg Beavers," Cassville Superintendent Jim Orrell said during a ribbon cutting ceremony that was held at the school campus on Nov. 16. "A plan was developed and a grant application was completed, but the project stalled for a number of reasons.

"As a result of Michael (Galyen)'s death, a lot of people stepped up to help with this project," said Orrell. "The commitment six land owners gave for easements on their properties allowed the project to happen."

Orrell thanked city, county and community leaders and Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) officials for supporting the sidewalk project.

"We had a lot of people step up and run with this to get the Safe Route to Schools Grant, which allowed us to get going on this project," said Orrell. "This project has exceeded our expectations. It will be a tremendous asset for the students and parents of R-IV Schools.

"Our students will be able to travel to and from school safely, and our parents will definitely have a sense of relief knowing that their children are not walking along Y Highway," said Orrell.

City of Cassville, R-IV School District, MoDOT and other county and community officials redoubled their efforts to complete a sidewalk along Highway Y in September of 2007 after Galyen, a Cassville High School student, was killed in a car-pedestrian accident on his way to school.

"From the beginning, with the tragedy of Michael's death, I knew this project was going to happen," said Becky Baltz, MoDOT Southwest District engineer. "It wasn't if they could get a grant, it was how were they going to make this happen?

"We weren't sure if we could get the Safe Route to Schools Grant, but if that didn't work out we had another plan and another plan after that," said Baltz.

Cassville Mayor Tracy Holle acknowledged City Clerk Kelly Paul, who wrote the Safe Route to Schools Grant for the project. Holle also expressed gratitude to all of the local officials who helped see the project through and offered a special thank you to the residents who live along Highway Y.

"I wish it had not taken the loss of Michael's life to get things up and going enough to make this happen," said Cassville Mayor Tracy Holle, "but our community came together after this tragedy and asked, 'What can we do?' As a community, we knew we had to do something."

Webster County Excavating received a notice to proceed on the project from MoDOT in September. Earlier this year, the company was awarded a $96,888 contract for the sidewalk construction.

Although Webster County intended to finish the project within 20 working days, rainy weather pushed the sidewalk completion date back around two weeks. Crews worked overtime during November to finish the sidewalk this month.

The ribbon cutting ceremony also included brief comments by Phil Hutchens, who is a Barry County member of the Transportation Advisory Committee.

The special event was attended by several members of Galyen's family including: his mother, Eupha Galyen; his sisters, Summer Galdamez and Mary Galyen; his nephews, Christian and Louis "Bubba" Galdamez; his niece, Isabella Galdamez; and his cousins, Jim, Donna, Sydney and Ryan Brant. Several friends and church family members also attended the ceremony.

The sidewalk project is a collaborative effort between MoDOT, the Cassville R-IV School District, the Barry County Commission and the City of Cassville. Funding was provided through a $109,976 Safe Routes to School Grant that the city secured last spring.

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