Archive for Thursday, December 10, 2009

Water rate won’t jump, but trail cost almost triples

The proposed hiking and walking trail is the green line that begins at Douglas County 400 Road and ends in the FireTree neighborhood. The city is seeking a grant to pay for 80 percent of the estimated $650,000 cost.

The proposed hiking and walking trail is the green line that begins at Douglas County 400 Road and ends in the FireTree neighborhood. The city is seeking a grant to pay for 80 percent of the estimated $650,000 cost.

December 10, 2009

It was good news, bad news for residents at Monday night’s Baldwin City Council meeting.

The good news was that a possible water rate hike won’t happen. The bad news was that the “firmer” numbers on a proposed hiking and biking trail the council is seeking an 80 percent matching grant for came in around three times higher than first thought.

Councilman Ted Brecheisen, Jr., who leads the utility committee, gave a report from the last meeting and in it he said the committee had chosen not to recommend a 25-cent rate hike for water. Lawrence has raised rates 43 cents and the rate hike for Baldwin City residents wouldn’t cover that. It was instead decided to absorb all new water costs, which means another $40,000 the city will cover.

“We didn’t want to increase it with the economy the way it is,” said Councilman Tom Farmer, who also serves on the utility committee. “We’ll probably have to do something with electrical rates.”

Raising electrical rates was first brought up in August, but hasn’t been mentioned since. It was agreed that the entire council will have a work session in January to discuss what could be an 11 percent or higher rate increase for electricity.

When the council approved applying for a Transportation Enhancement Grant last month, the price tag for the proposed hiking and biking trail was estimated to be $240,000 to $270,000. The measure barely passed, 3-2, and City Administrator Jeff Dingman was asked to get “firmer” numbers for cost. That number is right at $650,000, with the Kansas Department of Transportation picking up 80 percent of the cost. The city’s cost would be $137,000 for the trail, which would start at County Road 400 (State Lake Road), go through the Signal Ridge subdivision and into the FireTree Estates subdivision. Eventually, the plan is to have the trail throughout Baldwin City.

Brecheisen was one of the council members who voted against the grant application a month ago. He said he’s still against it, thinks the survey that was done showing that hiking and biking trails is what residents want most was done poorly and said everyone he talks to wants sidewalks, not trails.

“I just think it’s scary to spend this money in these economic times,” said Brecheisen.

Mayor Ken Wagner said it made sense to apply for the grant and see what happens.

“I just don’t see any risk in letting the grant process take place,” said Wagner.

The city may not be awarded the grant and could decline it if it does get the grant.


hipgrrrrl 8 years, 5 months ago

Sidewalks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I could hike a whole bunch through Baldwin City with decent sidewalks, starting with a safe path to my own mailbox - and why would I want to go over to Fire Tree or Signal Ridge to hike about anyway? Why is our oh-so-necessary "I want to Live in Lenexa" hiking trail starting over there, anyway?


NanCrisp 8 years, 5 months ago

You are right, hipgrrrrl. These grants the City is getting that pay "80%" of the cost of these projects could just as easily be used to improve city sidewalks as for these other purposes. Given the extra costs that come alongside these super grants, the City should consider very carefully the merits of the project before just saying that, well, we should do this because we can get a grant.

Sure, it's a pretty good idea to apply for grants that offer to pay the lion's share of a project. As long as you also consider the other costs that may come into play. For example, with the recent downtown sidewalk improvements, a lot of sewer work had to be done, none of which was included in the parameters of the grant. These grants are often very much like "sales" at stores that get you to come in the door with a very lucrative offer, and then you find out that the stipulations attached leave you spending more money than you had planned to spend when you first walked in the door. That's why a sale is not a sale if you can't afford it, and an 80% grant may not be a good buy once you factor in ALL the costs, not just the ones included in the grant parameters.


BaldwinDad 8 years, 5 months ago

I still think applying for the grant is wrong, this is still my tax money whether it's the Tax Dollar's that are coming from my City Taxes or my State Taxes it's still my money.

I wonder why we need to give more improvements to Fire Tree development area versus actually improving the older part of Baldwin with Paved Streets, more Sidewalks, better public utilities, or just lowering property taxes.

Also would not an Elevated Crosswalk over 56 highway and 6th St be more of a benefit to the entire community since it seems like a little crazy to consider a walking trail when we have kids dodging cars to cross County roads to get to school.

If the residents in the Fire Tree development really want a walking trail so bad how about we just add a surcharge onto their property taxes to pay for it and leave the people that wont have access to this with out bravely crossing highway 56 on foot alone.


hipgrrrrl 8 years, 5 months ago

I think a lot of this of this wild need to spend is just based in neighbor envy. I know I make these dumb digs about Baldwin City being a wanna-be Olathe/Lenexa/Overland Park, but there is some merit to it.

I think there are a number of folks who have moved to Baldwin because of convenience, but also because they could get a new(ish) home, okay lot size, convenient community with decent schools for less. However, they don't want to have less, just to spend less - and due to our recent bond issues, pending utility costs soaring, etc., etc., the joke is on them - and me, darn it.

Honestly, my husband would love to have paths. He is a bike rider and has found it extremely challenging to get his work-out in via US 56 and other routes. I am a walker and have certainly used walking paths - although admittedly more urban. Additionally, I'm more likely to leave my house, walk down the sidewalk and head south because I find the sights and sounds of "old" Baldwin City fun and interesting, while trudging along in a treeless, cookie cutter subdivision doesn't interest me at all.

It makes me laugh a little, though. In other parts of the country, these paths are put in through parks and other green areas so those who aren't blessed enough to live in close proximity to a lovely green space have somewhere to go and enjoy. We, on the otherhand, are surrounded by bucolic farmland and forest and have to have a walking path running through a subdivision? Crazy.


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