— The Genesee Valley Trail will become a reality for Flint Township residents and the entire Genesee County community after the Flint Township Board of Trustees voted 5-1, with Treasurer Sandra Wright dissenting, in favor of hiring Wilcox Engineering at a price of $42,000 at its Aug. 31 special meeting.
The special meeting stemmed from an Aug. 26 Parks and Recreation Committee meeting where officials learned they needed to raise $44,000 for engineering costs within the next 7- 10 days to see the project through fruition. The total project is approximately $1 million, with $950,400 available through federal money for the township.
The immediate need for the funds was due to an upcoming date of Sept. 17 for a grade inspection to be done on the trail. At the Aug. 26 meeting, Derek Bradshaw, principal planner from the Genesee County Metropolitan Planning Commission, said that all the money for the project needs to be “tied up” by Dec. 31 in order for the township to receive a waiver, and not have to pay back the federal money for the trail project. If the money is not there by the Dec. 31 deadline, Bradshaw said the township would be responsible for a 20 percent match.
“There are key dates from MDOT (Michigan Department of Transportation) and if we don’t do something in the next few days, we will not get to the point of the money being tied up for the 100 percent waiver,” Bradshaw told the board at the special meeting.
Also present at the special meeting was Vanessa Warren of Wilcox Engineering, who told the board that she asked her company if they could donate some of their services to the township. Warren said Wilcox Engineering will donate $2,000 to the effort by lowering its fee. The firm also will change its billing schedule to the township to help with payments.
Another individual who spoke on behalf of the trail was Heidi Phaneuf of the Genesee County Land Bank. Phaneuf, who helped the township with its Parks and Recreation Master Plan, addressed the board, saying the plan was done on a volunteer basis, saving the township approximately $10,000.
“That plan helped make the trail plan possible,” she said. “I urge you to consider that when weighing the proposal before you.” Supervisor Karyn Miller thanked Phaneuf for her efforts on the Parks and Recreation Master Plan. A final advocate of the trail to speak before the board was Victor Lukasavitz, PS/CZA with Fleis & Vandenbrink Engineering, Inc., who spoke on the economic benefits from having the Genesee Valley Trail.
“The economic gain is positive, positive,” he said. “Housing along or near a trail sells for a greater value and new businesses spring up along trails.” Citing the Pere Marquette Trail in Midland, Lukasavitz said the recreational income generated by the trail has been $2 million a year.
“The tax base will go up (here), house values will increase, retail and other businesses will thrive, houses will sell quicker and the community net worth will increase,” he said. “You can’t afford to not consider building a trail.”
In addition to hiring Wilcox Engineering, the Flint Township Board received donations from community members and organizations for the trail.
Matt Assenmacher, owner of Assenmacher’s Cycling Centers, personally donated $5,000. The Genesee Wanderers Bicycle Club, of which Assenmacher is president, also donated $5,000. Nancy Krupiarz, executive director of MIchigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, told the board she meet with the organization’s executive committee and committed to donating $5,000 to engineering and design fees. Other donations came from Jack Minore, president of the Friends of the Flint River Trail, who pledged $1,000 on the group’s behalf; Lukasavitz, who personally donated $100; Sally Joseph, former township supervisor and president of Genesee Valley Rotary who donated $3,000 on behalf of the rotary; Lonnie Kester from the Southern Links Trailway in Millington who personally donated $100; Paul Semerad, owner of Semtron, Inc., who personally donated $100; George Mehrens, member of the Flint Township Parks and Recreation Committee, who personally donated $100; and Trustee George Menoutes, who personally donated $100.
Miller, through letter-writing efforts, said approximately $1,100 had been raised, and the current total of donations is $22,875. MIller also told the board and audience that she received opinions from the township’s attorneys and Plante & Moran, and that the township could use money from road millage funds to pay for the Genesee Valley Trail if not enough money was raised.
Resident David Areco spoke against using funds from the road millage for the Genesee Valley Trail, saying the millage that was passed Aug. 8, 2006 specifically stated for funds to be used on roads, “not trails and not non-motorized.”
“The road millage is for road maintenance and improvement, and we need to keep the road millage for roads and what the residents passed on Aug. 8, 2006,” he said.
Miller said that she checked with the attorneys, and was told the funds could be used to construct portions of the trail that are on roads or road right of ways.
The proposal for the Genesee Valley Trail involves converting an abandoned railroad into a recreational trail. The original plan for the trail, which is 2.3-miles, begins at Corunna Rd. and the old railroad crossing (near Ballenger Hwy.) and ends at the north signal light near the entrance/exit of Genesee Valley Center. Since the original plans were made, the committee decided to add an extension of the trail, adding 3,050-feet, and ending it near the police station at Norko and Fleckenstein Drives. With the extension, the Genesee Valley Trail would be three miles. According to officials, the extension does not increase the cost required of Flint Township. Construction on the Genesee Valley Trail should begin in Spring 2011.
Individuals and businesses interested in making donations to the Genesee Valley Trail project can stop by the township offices, 1490 S. Dye Rd., or call 810-732-1350.