City favors $300,000 toward trail extension grant

City Council
By: 
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     The Monticello City Council gave its blessing on May 3 for Parks and Recreation to go after a trails grant to extend Willow Trail.

     The COVID-19 Relief Recreational Trail program is awarding Highway Infrastructure Program funding as part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (HIP-CRRSAA). The purpose of the grant is to provide funding to highway programs negatively impacted by COVID. In Iowa, one of those programs impacted was the State Recreational Trails (SRT) program.

     The entity (Parks and Rec) can request between $500,000 and $1.25 million. Parks and Rec is still working out the details and putting plans and a cost estimate together with City Engineer Patrick Schwickerath.

     However, Parks and Rec requested between $250,000 and $300,000 from the city in terms of a financial commitment toward the grant application and project.

     If successful, projects must be completed by Sept. 30, 2023.

     This grant is a cost-reimbursement program, meaning Parks and Rec would incur the cost of the trail extension project and submit a claim to the Iowa DOT for reimbursement.

     “This is a very competitive grant,” said Parks and Rec Director Jacob Oswald.

     He told the council that the grant application was due in two weeks, meaning they needed to make a financial contribution decision soon.

     “If you apply (for the grant) are we locked in?” asked Council member Dave Goedken concerning the commitment.

     “If we get the grant,” clarified Oswald.

     Goedken further asked if Parks and Rec could refuse the grant if awarded. Oswald and City Administrator Russ Farnum explained refusing a grant they were awarded would reflect badly on future grants.

     Oswald said Parks and Rec is working on a future trails plan, but nothing is set in stone yet.

     “We have stuff penciled out,” he said. “A lot (of the trail) is on city property.”

     It has been said that the owner of the former Energy building property plans to give the city several acres to extend the trail to the north. Council member Chris Lux asked Oswald if the gift of property could be considered as part of the council’s contribution.

     “It could,” he said. “The (grant) application could be stronger because of the larger amount stacked on top of the commitment.” He explained larger communities like Dubuque could see a bigger cash match from the city, which makes them look better on paper compared to smaller communities.

     Mayor Brian Wolken suggested using a portion of the city’s Hotel/Motel Tax as part of the financial request. The city gets about $23,000 a year.

     Chamber Director Jan Hoag said with 50 percent of Hotel/Motel Tax needing to go toward tourism, a trail project is certainly a viable option.

     Keith Stamp who serves on the city’s Trail Committee said he would hope the council considers the financial request.

     “We started on this journey to upgrade the trail,” he said of establishing a trail in Monticello. “We need to keep and bring people to Monticello.” Stamp said a recreational trail is one way to attract people to town.

     “People love trails,” added Goedken. “This is a real advantage. We have a lot (of the trail) established already. It’s worth the support.”

     It was up to the council how much to commit. They voted on and approved $300,000, to come from Parks and Rec’s park improvement fund, which gets around $70,000 a year. Oswald said they are also working on letters of support to accompany the grant.

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