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Neighborhood with heavy foot traffic may get sidewalks
Pedestrians walk Monday afternoon along Old Athens Road. The Hall County Board of Commissioners discussed building sidewalks on Old Athens Road, Floyd Road and Brown Street southeast of Gainesville.

Sidewalks may soon be coming to the Morningside Heights area just southeast of Gainesville.

At their work session Monday, the Hall County Board of Commissioners discussed building sidewalks along Old Athens Road, Floyd Road and Brown Street as part of a three-phase project.

In the past, heavy pedestrian traffic there has caused several accidents.

“Over the last 10 years there we’ve had some unnecessary deaths,” Commissioner Ashley Bell said.

The Concerned Citizens of Gainesville-Hall County is spearheading efforts to bring improvements to the neighborhood.

On Saturday, the group held a rally and collected about 800 signatures in support of installing sidewalks on the community’s main roads.

“People are always in the street because there’s no other place to walk,” said Gloria Evans, a member of the Concerned Citizens group and a Floyd Road resident. “I just want this done for our safety.”

The first phase would include 1,012 feet of sidewalk on Old Athens Road. The cost for the first phase is estimated at $26,000. The money would come from the SPLOST VI road fund.

Bell said the county likely will finish one phase per year. The plan is to finish the first phase this summer.

The last phase is expected to be complete by the summer of 2012.

Getting the right of way from Old Athens Road property owners may be the biggest challenge to beginning construction.

“We have to go door to door practically,” Public Works Director Ken Rearden said. “We have to explain the project and give them a right-of-way deed to execute. It’s time consuming.”

The commissioners placed the project on the consent agenda, which will be voted on at 5 p.m. Thursday.

“Once they vote Thursday, we’ll get started acquiring the properties,” Rearden said.

The sidewalk project is one step of a comprehensive community plan to improve Morningside Heights.

This is part of an overall revitalization project,” said Michelle Lowe Mintz of the Concerned Citizens of Gainesville-Hall County. “We’re pushing piece by piece for the revitalization.”

As the sidewalks are built, trash bins also will be installed to help cut down on litter.

“Community groups are already lined up to adopt each of the receptacles,” Bell said.

Gainesville is also working to build sidewalks to connect to county sidewalks at the city limits.

A number of people from the Morningside Heights community came to the work session to show support. Sheriff Steve Cronic also was there to back the project.

“I think the level of effort and level of communication has really turned the corner in making that community safer and a better place for families,” Cronic said. “It’s just going to be an effort of everybody working together to improve the quality of life.”

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