HALLOWELL — The sidewalk on the east side of Water Street in Hallowell might not be ending after all.

Frank Navarro works on figuring the grade level of sand June 27 before continuing to put a new brick sidewalk in front of the Harlow Gallery in downtown Hallowell.

City councilors voted unanimously Monday to explore the options to finish the sidewalk by the Lucky Garden restaurant. The city had planned to extend the sidewalk past the eatery as part of the Water Street reconstruction project, but the restaurant’s owners made a request to

halt that — which, unbeknownst to other officials, was agreed to by City Manager Nate Rudy — at a meeting with city and state Department of Transportation officials in March.

On Monday, Councilor Lisa Harvey-McPherson, chairwoman of the council’s Highway Committee, made a final motion to get a cost estimate from the Maine Department of Transportation, after delivering a report about the committee’s Dec. 6 meeting. Parties involved in a March meeting that resulted in the change spoke last week to clarify their roles and the timeline of events.

The Monday motion instructed Rudy to obtain information about the cost to complete the sidewalk as originally designed, the cost of moving a fire hydrant and what risk the city would incur by asking DOT to implement the original design. Councilor Diano Circo added to the motion to ask what money was saved as a result of halting the sidewalk.

After a March 21 meeting with city and state officials, restaurant owners Annie and Tony Huang opted to keep a set of granite boulders where they are — citing feng shui, safety and loss of parking as a reason — which stopped plans to move them back and continue the sidewalk from Granite City Park to the state boat landing. The Kennebec Journal reported, based on a documents request, that the decision was ratified by Rudy on March 24 and the DOT cut the sidewalk from the project after his confirmation.

Rudy said he was unaware that he was making any decision at the meeting and the transportation department should have consulted with the Highway Committee or the City Council, as it did with other changes. DOT Project Manager Ernie Martin said the portion of the project was not for “highway purposes,” so the city had final say on whether it was included.

Some residents are unhappy about the change. Former Councilor Alan Stearns said it flies in the face of two previous council actions.

At Monday’s council meeting, Harvey-McPherson recommended three ultimate options for the sidewalk: to ratify the change, to instruct DOT to finish the sidewalk as planned or to look to a project at the boat landing and add finishing the sidewalk into that project.

Councilors decided not to go with one of those options yet, instead pursuing cost information about the project. Since the sidewalk already was planned, Rudy said, the cost incurred probably would be for “undoing what is done” at the site.

Councilor Kate Dufour said the sidewalk, which ends abruptly upon the rock’s location, was unsafe for pedestrians because it forces them into the street or into the restaurant’s private parking lot. Circo said he has witnessed a person in a wheelchair dangerously negotiate the stopped sidewalk.

“I think the practical reality is that it forces people into the street,” Dufour said. “I don’t think we should force people to walk on private property to walk from one side of downtown to the other.”

At the Dec. 6 meeting, Water District Superintendent Zach Lovely said a fire hydrant would have to be moved if the sidewalk is built in accordance with original plans. An estimate for that cost will be gathered by Rudy, as instructed by the motion.

A new sidewalk, shown Oct. 22, ends at the Lucky Garden restaurant parking lot on Water Street in downtown Hallowell.

In response to his confusion about his role at the March meeting, councilors also instructed Rudy to pursue a clear outline of eminent domain and decision-making authority by the transportation department.

Councilors also were concerned about future parallel parking on the south side of the entrance parking lot. A line denoting street parking runs to the north side of the entrance, but not on the south side. There are no signs denoting parking on the south side, however. Councilor Michael Frett said people were parking there, but no action was taken about parking spots.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for be Jan. 2, 2019, when Councilors-elect Maureen Aucoin and Patrick Wynne will be inaugurated. Harvey-McPherson and Councilor Lynn Irish, both members of the Highway Committee, will no longer be on the council.

Sam Shepherd — 621-5666

[email protected]

Twitter: @SamShepME

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