Archive for Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tonganoxie accepts grant for extension of Chieftain Trail

June 29, 2011

The Tonganoxie City Council agreed Monday to accept nearly $900,000 in grant dollars for use in extending Chieftain Trail 1.25 miles.

The issue drew about 20 supporters to the council meeting, five of whom spoke in favor of the city accepting a federal Transportation Enhancement Grant the Kansas Department of Transportation administrates. The city received notice in September 2010 that KDOT had selected the project for the grant, but action was delayed because projects could be scheduled for construction in 2011 or 2012.

The grant will provide an estimated $895,572 to extend Chieftain Trail from its current terminus at Chieftain Park northeast along Tonganoxie Road (Leavenworth County Road 1) to Laming Road and then south to Woodfield Drive near the new Post Office. The 10-foot-wide concrete trail would be built on the north side of CR5 to the U.S. Highways 24-40 underpass and then switch to the south side to Laming Road.

The grant does require a local match of an estimated $223,000, and the city will have to pick up the cost of design engineering, utility relocation and easement acquisition. Design engineering, which would develop easement and utility relocation costs, would cost the city an estimated $71,000.

Those commitments were too much for Councilman Dennis Bixby, the only council member to vote against accepting the grant, but they also caused other council members to ask questions about how the project would be paid for and what it might mean for other city projects or commitments.

Kevin Kokes, the city’s planning consultant, said the Chieftain Trail Phase II extension was incorporated in the Conveniently Connected Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan the council approved last year after the Tonganoxie Planning Commission developed it in a yearlong community process. It is one of three trails envisioned to cross U.S. Highways 24-40 north to south with one at Laming Road and an unidentified location to the west. Kokes said because of the Tonganoxie Road underpass, it was the only one that wouldn’t require pedestrians and bicyclists to cross the highway. That was the reason the city chose to prioritize the project for a grant application, Kokes said.

Supporters speaking Monday emphasized that point.

“It appears to be an excellent tie-in to Chieftain and VFW parks,” Tonganoxie Recreation Commission Director Gayle Parker said. “It’s always been apparent to me there is really no safe place for children to get across what is five lanes of traffic with the turn lanes.”

Resident Joe Morgan said the project would add to sidewalks or trails the city has completed in recent years, such as the first phase of Chieftain Trail and the Pleasant Street sidewalks. It would provide safe pedestrian and bicycle access to city parks, the swimming pool, library, schools and downtown to 450 platted lots and more than 300 homes and townhouses in subdivisions in the northeast part of the city, he said.

Cecilia Harry of the Leavenworth County Development Corporation’s Trails Committee added that the extension would enhance economic development by making downtown more accessible and attracting new residents or visitors to the community who use trails. She would be one of the new residents as her family just bid on a house north of the highway.

In response to council concerns, City Administrator Mike Yanez and City Clerk Kathy Bard said the city’s match and other obligations would be paid for with an account funded from revenue the city received from its share of the Leavenworth County sales tax. The city received about $306,000 from that source in 2010, which is traditionally used for capital equipment purchases, they said.

Final payment on the project would be due in 2013, so the city could set aside funding for the trail in both 2012 and 2013, Bard said.

For 2012, $47,000 in the sales tax account would be used for the lease purchase of two police cars and for federally mandated street sign replacement. There is currently $525,000 in the growing account, Bard said.

Bard and Yanez conceded that using the money on the trail’s extension would prevent that money’s use on other capital projects, although there were currently no other proposed uses for the account other than the $47,000 Yanez cited.

With those questions answered, all council members but Bixby voted in favor of accepting the grant. Bixby told supporters he couldn’t justify the added city debt burden after discussing at the last council meeting a possible new fire and police station and the extension of utilities to the County Road 1 industrial park.

“While you have all make good arguments and I like trails, $300,000 for one-and-a-quarter miles of walking trails is something I can’t justify when we are already in debt,” he said.

The council did table an agreement with BG Consultants to do the design engineering for an amount not to exceed $71,000. After concerns expressed at recent council meeting, the proposed contract provided more information on billed hours.

Understanding the city faces a tight deadline to get the contract bid by the state’s deadline, council members agreed to table awarding the design contract until formal wording of the study’s timeline was presented at the July 11 council meeting.

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