By PATRICK HALL
The Wilson Post
A change in federal guidelines has the City of Lebanon and Mayor Philip Craighead rethinking ways to fund a proposed addition to the Cedar City walking trail along Bartons Creek near three local schools.
The project has been on the table since Craighead was elected Mayor in 2008 when he noted the city received a grant for $500,000 and then, in 2009, received another grant for a little over $500,000.
The grants required the city to pay 20 percent of the project costs, totaling $250,000. Craighead said the city planned to meet that requirement by putting up a soft match of engineering costs and land donation.
We were notified that the federal interpretation of the guidelines had changed and the match had to be $250,000 in cash, Craighead said.
The trail would stretch from Hickory Ridge Road near Byars Dowdy Elementary School all the way to Leeville Pike, and travel along Bartons Creek. Craighead hopes that another city park can be built across from the new Lebanon High School to complement the walking trail.
Since the grants were originally awarded, the city has since spent $115,000 on engineering for the trail, but Craighead said they found out that expense wont count toward the $250,000 the city is required to pay.
Phase 5 & 6 of the Cedar City Trail are represented by a red line along Barton's Creek. Also seen is a new site for a proposed city park across from the new Lebanon High School.
Over the last few years, Craighead noted the city has jumped through many hoops with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, with its engineering and project proposals due to the trails proximity to Bartons Creek.
Since the changes, Craighead said they tried to avoid having to pay $250,000 in cash, considering they already spent $115,000 for engineering, intended for a soft match.
We tried everything we could to be grandfathered in, to avoid the changes along with other cities that were in the same position, the mayor said.
Those efforts were not successful and Craighead recently informed the City Council that they would have to now have to budget for the match to help pay for the project.
He said the city would need to budget $125,000 over the next two years in order to meet deadlines for the grant. The city has to acquire the land and get the project under contract by August 2013. The project has to be completed by August 2015.
Craighead hopes the trail will only enhance an area that has the potential to grow with the addition of the new LHS on Hartmann Drive and Winfree-Bryant Middle School on Leeville Pike.
The importance of this trail is the proximity to two new schools and connections to residential areas, Craighead said.
He added the future lighting of Hartmann Drive would also add to the areas ability to attract businesses, noting the city also had to weather a change in funding for streetlights.
Originally, the Tennessee Department of Transportation was going to fully reimburse the city for the streetlights. However, due to a conflict with Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation, Craighead said TDOT is not handling the lighting and MTEMC will put the lights up and charge the city a small usage fee.
Craighead noted the city was able to move the estimated cost of the lighting, around $800,000 into a fund to pave streets in the city that are in desperate need of attention.
The combination of all these things will hopefully be attracting new businesses to locate in this area, Craighead said. Its a good investment for our city.
Craighead noted the council is concerned with the $125,000 putting a strain on the citys budget over the next two years. Just last week, Craighead reported the city did not have to utilize any of the $1.8 million allocated from the reserves in the 2010-2011 budget.
The city was expected to end that budget year with a $6,000 surplus thanks to larger-than-expected sales tax revenues. The city reportedly exceeded its projected sales tax receipts by around $900,000.
Craighead noted the trail would have been harder to budget for if the city had to use the $1.8 million allocated in that budget. However, since the reserves were not used, he hopes the council will favor budgeting for the walking trail.
The payoff will be substantial, he said.
Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.