By Gerhard Schneibel

Progress should be made on closing the gaps in Sandy Springs’ network of sidewalks this year using federal money given to the city through a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The sidewalks for the most part are planned along Roswell Road north of Spalding Drive, where census numbers from 2000 show that 40.7 percent or more of residents have low or moderate incomes.

Dist. 3 Councilman Rusty Paul, formerly deputy assistant secretary of HUD for grant programming, said CDBG money must be spent in low- and moderate-income areas.

“We don’t have that many low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, but the ones that we do have all touch on Roswell Road,” he said.

While there is no word on when construction will begin, the city will be required to put its $146,909 of stimulus money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to work within 120 days of accepting it.

Vann McNeill, the city’s deputy director of community development, said: “What council is going to recommend is that we just go ahead and use (the stimulus) money on the sidewalk project. … You can spend your money and meet HUD’s requirements based on that census data.”

The money likely will be used to hire a design and research consultant.

The city also has all $540,875 of its CDBG money left from 2008 because the grant agreement for those funds wasn’t signed until December, and it will receive a similar amount this year.

Some of the money will be used along Roswell Road between Abernathy and Johnson Ferry roads and between Hammond and Long Island drives, also because census data show sufficient percentages of low- and moderate-income residents in those areas.

Sandy Springs was identified as a city entitled to CDBG money in 2008, and the City Council voted in June to spend the roughly $2.5 million it was to receive over five years on sidewalk improvements.

City staff has worked on the request for proposals required to hire a design and research contractor for the project since December.

“It’s pretty much ready to go, and we have a few minor things to do, and then it will be advertised,” McNeill said. “It’s very fortunate that we were ready to go with the design of that project, and then the economic stimulus money has come along.”

The Atlanta HUD office is finalizing other requirements for the stimulus money, but McNeill doesn’t know what those will be. The 2008 CDBG money will likely be used to pay for any portion of the design work that isn’t covered by the stimulus money, he said.

“Because it is tied to the economic stimulus bill, obviously the administration wants to see the money used as quickly as possible to create jobs,” he said. “We’re not real sure exactly how much the design work is going to cost, but we think we’ll probably have some leftover money.”

What’s left of the lump sum will be used for construction costs, McNeill said.