Parkville Aldermen cut Hwy. 9 trail project from 2014 budget

The Parkville Board of Aldermen gave preliminary approval to the 2014 City budget Tuesday evening, minus the Highway 9 bicycle and pedestrian trail project.  Last month, the Board briefly discussed the project, with Alderman Chris Fisher voicing some doubts. The City has received a $350,000 grant from the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) to build the trail, with the City’s input on the project budgeted at about $150,000. Currently, the City plans fund its portion by borrowing funds from its Fewson Fund — a philanthropic trust dedicated to such projects — and through spending about $66,600 from the general fund. Monies borrowed from the Fewson Fund would need to be paid back over the course of several years, with the exception of a small amount. However, City Administrator Lauren Palmer told the Board that earlier that day she had learned of an additional $14,000 located in the Fewson Fund that could be put to use and wouldn’t require repayment. Despite this news, Alderman Jim Werner along with several others voiced additional concerns, leading the Board to eventually pull the project in its entirety from the 2014 budget. Werner said he had many concerns about the trail in addition to the money question. He felt the proposed path of the trail was unsafe, as it wound through a wooded area behind businesses along Hwy. 9, and that the project as a whole seemed “poorly conceived” and would not see much use. “As a female, I doubt I would use it,” Alderman Kendall Welch said. While the project plan does include the possibility of trail lighting, the funding for such lighting is not part of the current plan, according to City staff. Staff also reported that the alignment of the trail was something that had been a cause of concern for much of the project and that the current planned path was deemed the most viable by consultants and the MARC committee. The Hwy. 9 corridor provides challenges due to its nature and the placement of many driveways right on the thoroughfare. Additionally, the graveyard along the highway poses a challenge for development. Alderman Nan Johnston said while she could see both sides of the issue, she felt that now was the time to build the trail, as future development could hinder it and the grant funding was available now. “I struggle with it, but when I look at the grant I think it’s hard to say no to that,” she said. Werner agreed, and acknowledged that he had been among those last month who had concerns about turning down grant funding. Since, he said he had “an attack of conscious” because he felt the City should be saving funds instead of spending them. Alderman Jackie Snyder said she’d had a complete change of heart on the project since talking about it last month. “It may just be time to pull the plug,” she said. Palmer said during her talks with MARC representatives, that while turning down an approved grant could give future MARC grant committees a somewhat more negative perspective on the City, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. One thing MARC didn’t favor, Palmer said, was Johnston’s suggestion to perhaps carve the proposal into smaller pieces, allowing the City to fund it in stages. Director of Public Works Kirk Rome agreed, stating Missouri Department of Transportation staff had given him similar answers, and had suggested if the project is shelved to simply complete the required documents for the project, obtain easement donations and then wait for a more favorable time for construction.