CHATHAM, NJ - After six months of studying every aspect of the $578,000 Safe Routes to School federal grant awarded to Chatham Township, Mayor Kevin Sullivan and the township committee finally authorized the project to move forward Thursday night at its regular meeting.

John Ruschke, township engineer, will now move into the design phase of the project, which calls for the installation of sidewalks on the east side of Lafayette Avenue and the north side of Spring Street. It is estimated that construction could begin in the summer or fall of 2017.

Mike Kelly, committee member, pointed out that he hadn't seen anything reviewed in such detail as the SRTS project during his 40 years in the newspaper business. Kelly was the former managing editor of the Independent Press.

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Ruschke promised to reach out to every resident impacted by the project so they could weigh in on the installation that affects their property.

The pros and cons have been discussed by the public, as it was on Thursday night when Inwood Road resident Fran Drew came forth with her objections to the Lafayette sidewalks (see video below).

In a testament to how the township committee members actually listened to what the public was saying, Thomas Ciccarone, township administrator, urged the committee (see video below) to adopt two of the suggestions made by Drew to slow down traffic and make it safer on Lafayette Avenue.

The committee came to a consensus on placing the sidewalks on the north side of Spring Street, rather than the south side. The SRTS grant had called for the south side, but, because of varying factors, the committee agreed to the north side. Committee member Curt Ritter felt the grant should stay as originally drafted.

Mayor Sullivan noted that he understood the objections made by impacted Lafayette area homeowners and said: "This is where self-interest meets the public interest."

Robert Gallop, who has been a member of the township committee for eight years, gave his endorsement for the Safe Routes to School project.

John Ruschke, township engineer, was asked by committee member Robert Gallop to give his opinion on the SRTS grant.

Fran Drew, a 33-year resident of Inwood Road, is opposed to the sidewalk, because of the trees that need to be removed on Lafayette Avenue.

Thomas Ciccarone, township administrator, asked that the committee adopt some of the safety measures suggested by resident Fran Drew, such as a lower speed limit and signs.

In other business, the committee held a swearing-in ceremony for Rich Young, the new director of the Chatham Township Department of Public Works. The Westfield resident has 13-plus years of experience with the DPW.