Jeff Kay of Skowhegan, left, and Kayla Pacheco, of Pittsfield, circle the paved trail Thursday at Coburn Park in Skowhegan. Selectmen this week approved spending federal pandemic relief money for the purpose of repaving walkways and other areas at the park. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

SKOWHEGAN — Selectmen this week decided to designate about $36,000 in federal pandemic relief money for improvements to Coburn Park near downtown.

The request, submitted by the Coburn Park Commission, calls for $36,175 to be spent on paving, labor, equipment, materials and trucking to work on all existing pavement at the park as well as the entrance. The quote for the work was prepared by Fine Line Paving & Grading in Madison.

Town officials anticipate receiving more than $870,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The town received about half of that amount last September and anticipates the second half to be deposited sometime this September.

Of that first $430,000 installment, about $15,000 remains in the town’s account while awaiting the second half.

Selectmen decided in December to allocate nearly $194,000 in premium pay for town employees. Then in February they committed to spending $120,000 for two solid waste compactors and electrical work, around $50,000 for a new police cruiser, $110,000 for police department/IT software upgrades, and $60,000 toward broadband advancements.

While selectmen were supportive of the paving plan for the park, a few during a meeting Tuesday expressed concern about paving over or around tree roots, fearful the pavement would deteriorate within a few years.

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But Board of Selectmen Chairman Todd Smith expressed his support for the improvements, saying that the park “is my favorite thing that Skowhegan has to offer.”

“My fear is that if we don’t act now (on the request) I don’t know if and when (the paving) is going to get done — in five, 10 or 15 more years from now?” Smith said.

Selectman Paul York was supportive of the project but expressed concern with how the federal money is being spent.

“I think we need to start discussing the rest of this money, because we’re eating this money up fast,” York said. “I know we had our list of requests, and I know the last time we had this discussion that we were putting some stuff off and decided not to spend the second round of money until we had the money.”

Jeff Kay of Skowhegan, left, and Kayla Pacheco of Pittsfield, pass the entry gate to Coburn Park on Thursday in Skowhegan. Selectmen this week approved spending federal pandemic relief money for the purpose of repaving walkways and other areas at the park. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

He was concerned that a majority of the money will be spent before designating funds to other proposals that selectmen have already decided are a priority, like a new generator for the Community Center.

Robert Haynes, a Coburn Park commissioner, told the board that as long as the request is approved, the group is fine waiting until the town receives the second half of the money. The new pavement will allow for safer access to the walking paths and also make the park more accessible for wheelchairs, skateboards and walkers.

“As long as it’s in queue, that’s what matters for us,” Haynes said. He said park commissioners anticipate the cost of the project may increase by the fall, but the commissioners would cover the difference rather than increase the funding request.

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