by Trish Rudder
The town and the state Department of Transportation’s Division of Highways (DOH) are working together on the proposed Rail Trail project and Streetscapes Phase 4A that encompasses Congress Street and one block on North Washington Street.
But the DOH no longer allows the town to “pay as you go,” said Rail Trail and Streetscapes committee member Pete Brown. Grant funding is now “reimbursable” or after the fact, and monies are needed now to go forward.
At the Bath Town Council meeting on July 2, Brown said the town needs to request up-front funding of $100,000 from the Morgan County Commission for the rail trail project.
Town Recorder Susan Webster said since the funding is reimbursable, the town has in the past received a line of credit from the bank. “A bridge loan can be requested,” she said.
“The DOH asks for everything up front. Ask a bank if the Morgan County Commission balks,” Mayor Scott Merki said.
Rail Trail committee member Rebecca McLeod said the county has a rail trail fund.
“That would be the simplest way,” Webster said.
Brown said he will speak with the commissioners at today’s meeting, July 10.
Webster suggested a preliminary discussion with the commission. “Involve the bank if you need to,” she said.
The town council approved a funding request letter to the Morgan County Commission from Merki.
Streetscapes needs schedule
Brown then told the council that Streetscapes also needs up-front funding of $59,000. That funding request letter to the commissioners was also approved by the town council.
Brown said a project schedule is needed from the DOH.
Because the Streetscape project did not begin earlier this year as planned, committee members and the town council are concerned that construction delays will impact the early October Apple Butter Festival, which is the town’s largest tourist attraction.
Merki said in the council meeting that the Streetscapes construction should begin on Congress Street “and do all the [ADA] corners first.” He said the DOH cannot pave U.S. 522 if the corners are not done.
“We’re running into Apple Butter,” Webster said, She said Del. Daryl Cowles and Sen. Charles Trump should be apprised.
Brown said Sen. Trump has been kept informed.
“Streetscapes needs money up front before bids can be made,” McLeod said.
“We’ll talk with Cowles and Trump that we have a hold up by DOH,” Merki said.
“We need $59,000 from the Morgan County Commission for green infrastructure,” said McLeod.
“What is the time frame?” asked Councilman Rick Weber.
“We were aiming for spring,” said Brown.
“We’re going to collide with Apple Butter,” Weber said.
“It’s not a huge job once we get started, once a contractor’s on board.” said McLeod.
Brown and Merki agreed that Congress Street should be done first, including repairs and street paving.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Skinner suggested McLeod attend the meeting with Trump and Cowles.
Brown said “Trump is watching, so he is aware. He is being copied on correspondence.”