With the budget looking tighter than originally expected, some Park County commissioners are having second thoughts about going forward with an effort to plan some new walking and biking routes in …
With the budget looking tighter than originally expected, some Park County commissioners are having second thoughts about going forward with an effort to plan some new walking and biking routes in and around the City of Powell.
The county undertook the project last year in an effort to find possible ways to expand the areas where people can safely walk and bike on the edges of the city; a growing number of people have been recreating on Lane 8H/14th Street north of Powell, but it’s narrow in spots and is a designated truck route. The ultimate goal is to reduce the potential for conflicts between vehicles and bikers/pedestrians, County Engineer Brian Edwards explained last year.
The county applied for and received a $40,000 grant from the Wyoming Department of Transportation for the planning effort — with the county required to provide a $10,000 match — and a committee recently selected Engineering Associates (EA) to complete the work.
But with commissioners eyeing every possible way to cut their spending, Commissioner Jake Fulkerson balked at signing a final contract with EA earlier this month.
“It’s hard for me because I recognize a lot of people have done a lot of hard work on this and it’s hard to back up,” Fulkerson said at the May 5 meeting, adding, “These are good dollars and it’s good to put dollars in the community when we can when it’s rough times.”
However, at the moment, “I just don’t have a feel for … what [budget] position we’re going to be in,” he said.
Commissioners agreed to wait on a decision until getting a clearer picture of the upcoming budget. Fulkerson said a decision will come by July 1 and Edwards indicated that waiting a couple months shouldn’t jeopardize the grant or project.
Under the timeline proposed by EA, the firm would take a little over a year to complete the plan. A draft scope of work says EA would spend three months reviewing existing plans and policies, four months evaluating possible route options and gathering input from the public and partners, another four months preparing a conceptual master plan and map — including cost estimates — and gathering more public input and then finalizing the plan by June 2021. That was predicated on starting the job this month, so the delay will likely change that timeline.
In the meantime, Commissioner Lloyd Thiel indicated that he will be a yes vote on moving forward with the planning project — even if it means pulling the $10,000 out of reserves.
“I get it. I mean, this budget being the way it is … it’s even going to be hard to justify to some of the constituents that [might say] we’re wasting money on a bike path when we can’t even afford to keep people in the clerk’s office or maybe something like that,” Thiel said. “But I really think we need to stress the fact that … this is a safety issue. It truly is.”
“It’s only a matter of time before somebody gets killed,” he said. “There’s so many pedestrians walking and riding bikes on a designated county truck route.”
By completing a WYDOT-funded plan for a walking or biking path, the county could be positioning itself to receive another grant from WYDOT to help construct whatever trails are proposed.
“I think this sets us up well, if we do complete it, to have another project down the road,” Edwards said, noting that WYDOT could again cover 80% of the cost.
Commissioner Dossie Overfield abstained from this month’s vote on the contract with EA, as her husband, Rob, and son, Heath, both work for the firm.