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LORDSTOWN Leaders wonder: Has bike trail project come to a dead end?

Saturday, January 31, 2004

At issue is whether the village has the money for its share of the funding.
LORDSTOWN -- While the village has received initial approval for funding to construct a bike trail, leaders are not convinced all of the money is readily available.
Council members are torn on whether to aggressively pursue grant money to build a bike path throughout the village, or to simply withdraw their request until a future date.
Zoning Administrator Ron Barnhart said the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments has approved the initial application from the village for funding toward construction. The village is expected to cover the cost of design fees and 20 percent of the construction costs, he said, which could run about $200,000. That amount could increase to as much as $300,000, however, if the plans were to call for the construction of bridges across existing railroad tracks.
It's those numbers that worry some council members.
"We have more than half our residents who still are without sewers," said Councilman Richard Morgan. "We need to take care of that before this."
Drop in taxes
Most council members say they agree with Morgan, and point to projected drops in income taxes as a reason to keep a sharp eye on finances. The village's largest employer, the General Motors plants, are expected to decrease their work forces in the coming years, which translates into less income for the village. Those drops in revenue, combined with increases in maintaining current services, could mean some belt-tightening, they said.
"There are just too many other projects in the village that need the money," said Councilman William Dray, who urged council to drop the request for funding from Eastgate.
Others, however, are reluctant to drop the project altogether just yet, and instead want to investigate the project a little more and see what a final bill would be for the village.
"I think we need to do a little bit more work on this rather than just say, 'No,'" said Councilman D. James London.
Mayor Michael A. Chaffee said he will work with Barnhart and a bike trail committee composed of local residents to determine whether the village should continue with the Eastgate grant application. Council is expected to debate the matter again at a future meeting, and make a decision by the beginning of March, when the next round of grant applications are due.