Wednesday, October 07, 2009


Question: Is the City spending my local tax dollars to complete trails I voted against last November?!?

Answer: No, the City is not spending your local tax dollars on these projects, but yes, the City is completing the trails using federal grant money. As you have seen on your drives about town, not one but four trails are under construction at this very minute.

Question: Is our City government just a little bit loopy to undertake construction of trails and pressurized irrigation at the very same time?

Answer: Well, if we weren't loopy when we started, we certainly are by now. Throw in 50 South, and this construction is enough to drive anybody mad. But there is method to our madness. We accelerated the construction period on pressurized irrigation (PI) as a hedge against inflation. Originally scheduled for completion in three years, we are completing the project in two. Also -- sad but true -- recessions are a strategic time to install infrastructure as governments can benefit from a competitive bidding environment. If current projections hold, we'll complete PI one year ahead of schedule and one million dollars under budget.

Question: But did you have to throw trails in on top of this? I mean, we told you in that bond election that now is not the right time!

Answer: Last January, Mountainland Association of Governments (MAG -- the agency that distributes federal funds) delivered an ultimatum. Either spend this federal grant money already -- some of it was awarded as much as a decade ago -- or reimburse the feds for costs already paid on engineering and design.

Question: You had federal money sitting around and you didn't spend it?

Answer: The trick was coming up with the match. These grants paid 93.33 percent of total project costs, leaving the City to pay just 6.77 percent. This is a bargain, to be sure, but with project costs like $900,000 and $750,000, the City's match would still have been in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. As you already know from reading my post about road maintenance, we local taxpayers do not have that kind of money sitting around.

Question: So where did you get the money? You better not have bonded when I told you not to!

Answer: Well, I wasn't strictly accurate when I said we're not using local tax dollars. But it would be fair to say that we're not using very many local tax dollars. Faced with the choice between paying back $97,500 in engineering costs on the Art Dye trail or paying the match of $89,000, we chose to pay the match. (Hmm: $97,500 for no trail or $89,000 for a nice trail?) This amount is far less than the $2.3 million of the bond that was rejected.

Question: That's the Art Dye trail. What about the others I'm seeing under construction?

Answer: Right. Fortunately, MAG has graciously allowed us to move federal grant money from project to project. When we got stimulus funds for 50 South, we were able to move some of the earlier grant money for this over to trails. When we cancelled the expansion of the Main Street Park and Ride (FrontRunner's announcement of its American Fork station pre-empted the need for this expansion), we were able to move those funds over to trails. So the total City outlay for completion of four trails will have been just the $89,000 of the Art Dye Trail match. This is what I call value-engineering.

Question: Where did you get the $89,000?

Answer: The City Council had a knock-down drag-out fight over whether to take this from road and sidewalk funds or from the general fund balance. We'll probably settle the question at the end of the fiscal year when we adjust the budget. If you need to take your Scouts or Young Women to a meeting, this will be a fun one to watch.

Question: Did you say FOUR trails? What are the four trails?

  • (1) The Art Dye trail, which leads from the heart of Art Dye park to the Highland border, where it connects with Highland's trail system. I've been told that users can proceed from there all the way to the mouth of the canyon.
  • (2) The American Fork River Trail, which begins at approximately 325 East 300 North, follows the west bank of the river, skips onto 500 East for a bit, then connects to the Art Dye Trail.
  • (3) The 300 North connector. This is just three-and-a-half blocks of trail along 300 North that will connect the Center Street Trail to the aforementioned River Trail.
  • (4) The Center Street Trail, which leads from the Greenwood Skate Park to Chipman/Bicentennial Park and on up Center Street past the Fitness Center to the cemetery.
Question: I've seen some of these trails completed already. Why on earth would you rip out sidewalk to install a trail? Why not keep the sidewalk and mark it as trail?

Answer: My friends who jog tell me that asphalt is a much better surface. But the real reason for this decision is the federal design standard. Nobody gets to argue with the feds.

Question: So I shouldn't vote you out of office?

Answer: That's entirely up to you, and remember, you get your chance on November 3. But when I judge these trails, I see that American Fork has finally become a place where a person can take a walk. I see four fantastic opportunities purchased at the bargain basement price of $89,000. This sum divided among 7,000 households works out to $13 each, made payable in a one-time sum with no interest payments to be made ever. That's a pretty fair price for the ability to reconnect with nature, work on your heart health, or take a walk with the kids.

Question: That's $13 plus all that money I pay on my federal tax bill.

Answer: That's an issue for our federal representatives, and they don't seem to listen to me these days. But as a local representative, I feel that if the feds are going to collect all this money from us, the least we can do is let them spend some of it in our own community.

For more background on American Fork's trails, read Trixie Walker's article in last Friday's Daily Herald.


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