Mayor’s vote clears way for trail plan
It wasn’t exactly “happy trails to you” from the entire Baldwin City Council Monday night.
After a lengthy discussion regarding a resolution to authorize applying for a grant for a hiking and biking trail, the council voted 2-2, with Councilman Robin Bayer absent. That put the deciding vote on Mayor Ken Wagner’s shoulders and he voted to go for the grant, which brought it to 3-2.
“This is the resolution that essentially expresses the will of the governing body to support the grant application,” City Administrator Jeff Dingman said to start the discussion. “There are a lot of details to iron out, but this starts it.”
That support was divided from the start on a project that would bring a hiking and biking trail from Douglas County Road 12 to near U.S. Highway 56. The Transportation Enhancement grant would supply 80 percent of the $270,000 to $300,000 project, but the city would also have to pay design costs of 7 to 10 percent. That’s the way the grants worked for the Downtown Streetscape and Women’s Bridge projects.
Councilman Ted Brecheisen Jr. was against the resolution for several reasons.
“I don’t think I can support this resolution,” said Brecheisen. “We haven’t collected a cent of this tax and there are other things on the list. I think we’re jumping out to do something quick.
“I hate to have us commit right now for the grant,” he said. “I think we’re locking ourselves into something. It’s just like using a credit card and getting in trouble.”
Dingman said that the grant applications to the Kansas Department of Transportation are due by Dec. 31, but there won’t be a problem with the new quarter-cent sales tax for “quality of life” projects not taking effect until April 1.
“This probably won’t happen until May and money won’t be available until October,” he said.
Brecheisen was also concerned that the trail duplicates efforts with the upcoming project on County Road 1055 that will include sidewalks. The city will be splitting costs with Douglas County on that project.
“It’s two different things,” said Dingman, about sidewalks and trails.
Wagner brought up another point.
“We can make application for it, but that doesn’t mean it we will get it,” said Wagner.
Councilmember Tom Farmer was concerned about not having a firm number on what the project would cost. The $270,000 to $300,000 was only a ballpark figure Dingman had and that will be studied, he said.
“I think it would be good to have some firmer numbers,” said Brecheisen.
Councilmember Bonnie Plumberg pointed out that a survey has been done that shows hiking and biking trails are favored by the majority of the people who responded.
“I appreciate what Junior has said, but personally for me this is one the things that’s been at the forefront from the public,” said Plumberg.
Brecheisen and Farmer voted against the resolution, while Plumber and Mike Magers voted for it.
Earlier the council had voted unanimously on ordinances terminating the old half-cent sales tax and levying the new half-cent and quarter-cent sales taxes. Voters approved those earlier this month. The old half-cent sales tax was to pay for the swimming pool. The new half-cent tax is for infrastructure improvements, such as the north Sixth Street work.
The council approved a $2,065 per year raise for Dingman following a 40-minute executive session to review his performance. That brings his salary to $84,699.