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Vienna officials make U-turn, agree to sidewalk installation

Proposal had failed twice before; two council members still oppose it

The Vienna Town Council, in an unusual third vote taken one week after two previous tallies came up short, voted 5-2 March 4 to proceed with design work for a sidewalk on Johnson Street, S.W.

Back on Feb. 26, the Council had voted 4-3 against awarding Urban Ltd. a $29,750 contract to design a sidewalk along the west (odd-numbered) side of Johnson Street between Glen Avenue and the end of the street. Council members Roy Baldwin, Sandra Allen, Ray Brill Jr. and Jessica Ramakis voted nay, citing opposition to the project from some residents on the street.

Immediately following that vote, Council member Charles Anderson moved to have the proposal, which had been grouped with four other sidewalk projects that got approved, considered again as a separate item.

The same four Council members then voted down the item once more.

In the intervening week leading up to the March 4 meeting, however, some members changed their minds. Ramakis moved to reconsider the earlier vote and this time she and Brill sided with the project.

“After last vote, I received information that led me to reconsider my vote,” Ramakis said.

Council member Howard Springsteen said he was glad the matter was voted on again. He handed new Public Works Director Brad Baer a thick manila folder of documents pertaining to other sidewalk projects funded in the past several years by the Maud Ferris Robinson Charitable Trust.

“We have done this for years,” Springsteen said of the Robinson Trust projects. “If we start saying no, we’re going to be revisiting everything.”

That multi-million-dollar trust to build sidewalks on town-owned rights-of-way was bequeathed by former Council member Maud Robinson, who died in 2019 at age 96. She and her late husband, 24-year Vienna Mayor Charles Robinson Jr., were avid walkers.

But Allen and Baldwin stuck to their guns, saying they supported the desires of Johnson Street’s residents.

“I saw their neighborhood,” Allen said. “It’s quiet and undisturbed. Why force this community to have something they don’t want?”

Baldwin said he’d spoken with all three residents who opposed the project and would respect their wishes.

“There is concerted opposition to Robinson Trust sidewalks,” he said. “My policy is to recognize this is a gift – not an order, not a command.”