WESTCHASE — Building a sidewalk near a school can be a testy issue.
More than 50 residents, including parents with their children, crammed the Upper Tampa Bay Regional Library on Tuesday evening to voice opinions and get answers about a sidewalk planned near Bryant Elementary.
The meeting with county and school officials was tense and passionate. Neighbor yelled over neighbor, posing pointed questions about courtesy busing and sidewalk safety.
For more than a year, officials and homeowners near Nine Eagles Drive have gone back and forth over whether a 2,600-foot sidewalk should be built between Westwood Lakes Boulevard and Chase Grove Drive. The $286,000 sidewalk would be paid for with a state grant.
The project needs to start in September and the last bill must be paid by December to make use of the grant money.
"If we don't get it on our schedule, we will not be able to meet the covenants of the contract," said Steve Valdez, a county spokesman.
Some residents want the sidewalk, if not for their own children.
Donald Culver of Westwood Lakes said he would not let his son walk on the sidewalk when he enters the school this year, but he does see its value. "Let's better our community," he said.
County staffers will wait two weeks for resident input before taking their recommendation to commissioners in August.
Parents initially wanted the sidewalk. But when they found out it could cause some students to lose courtesy busing, opinions changed. By that time, the project was under way.
Now, if the sidewalk is scrapped, the county will have to return about $72,000 it spent on design.
Representing the school district, supervisor Lisa Yost assured the crowd there are no plans to reduce bus service as a result of the sidewalk.
"Hillsborough County Schools is in favor of the sidewalk, and we do not have any plans to discontinue busing," she said.
But she did not rule out the possibility of adjustments in the future.
Jared Leone can be reached at (813 ) 226-3435 or [email protected]