Further Details About $outh Campus Dr. Discussion At Rec Authority
A more elaborate description of last night’s Recreational Authority Board’s meeting about Silver Dr./South Campus Entrance was requested a couple of times today. I guess a couple of tweets weren’t enough. What follows are highly selective and incomplete notes, observations and perspectives from
last Tuesday night’s meeting, mostly following the time-line of last night’s meeting as I wrote in my notes..my apologies if it’s a little disjointed. In my defense, I’m on vacation-light.
The meeting begins with a breakdown by the board’s executive director, Benjamin Marentette, which includes that this project is now proposed for two phases. It lacks a plan/funding for phase II~we just have a picture and some preliminary engineering numbers. Phase II involves how to move people not in a car through the corridor.
The total cost for everything (as designed) is $925,000. The rec authority has $132,000 committed, but not released to the project. This is the main question: to release or not to release the money. Other money already committed: The City has contributed $165,000 and there is a federal grant through MDOT for $375,000 on the table for a total $660,00. That leaves a $345,000 shortfall for the project. In some great wisdom, there’s a push to complete the motorized traffic part of the project without the non-motorized part. Most of the audience is here to ask that to change.
Who made the choice to move ahead in 2 phases without a plan? I’ve inquired and have been involved with the street project for at least the last 6 months and I still don’t know who is driving the 2011 construction without it first being a complete project. Up to this point, the pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure has been left aside to complete the road; to complete anything. The idea of phasing it in I & II is a relative new addition and runs counter to the master plan for the City and the rec authority property. I agree with Mayor Chris Bzdok’s comments: if the cost is an impediment, the right city bodies need to ask for the lowest cost solution.
- Board member Tim Hughes raises an interesting point about donors to the barns property. Their may be a negative impact if an incomplete project moves through without a way to complete the rest of the project. If the recreational authority is perceived as simply helping to build a one-dimensional road through parkland, there may be people in the community who will take a wait and see approach before donating more funds. (I wouldn’t have thought of that, good point.)
- Jennifer Jaffe, also a planning commission representative, reminds the board that there are different master plans related to this project and all of them call for accessibility for people to be part of street projects. She says something that if we build it without providing access for all, we are throwing out those public processes. She asked for more time to figure out funding and design, while at the same time correcting many inaccuracies in revisionist history by other board members. Mainly, that the scope of this project has changed substantially from the time when it was simply providing an entrance to TBA-ISD, so talking about the original cost of $280,000 for a basic road is irrelevant. As well, the City is really in no chance of losing the property if they don’t build the street. The contract called for a road design be submitted, which is done. The title is already transferred, so that is not a concern.
- Brian Bourdages echoes Jaffe’s call to take the time to do the project correctly. He hasn’t heard anyone say the board is racing to meet a deadline. A mix of discussion reveals that the only real date that is a known entity is February 22 which is the deadline for submitting the project to the state to be able to complete it in 2011.
- Ralph Sofferdine, also a city commissioner, is his typical self. He keeps referring to the many “years” that he has worked on this (and every other project) and I can only think: that is part of the problem. With Sofferdine, we have a city commissioner/community leader who continually accepts incomplete projects and feels that people on foot, on bicycles and other wheeled devices, like wheelchairs, are simply a special interest to be considered, but not necessarily in need of treating as a priority. A parting shot is directed at “bicycle folks“ to “put dreams on the back table and face reality.“ No comment.
- Rec Authority chair, Ross Biederman, tries to match Sofferdine’s call for affirmative action on the road construction by chiming in with the contribution that he doesn’t want to “hold this project hostage to a pedestrian and bicycle entrance.” At the same time, he doesn’t think the $345,000 is all that much money and seems open to pursuing options.
- Michael Groleau explains that his vote to not release the funds at a previous meeting was to make sure they have the time to do this right. He is pleased with the progress made in one month and would like to see more time and energy spent to be certain they get the best plan they can get. “I would like to give this a month to allow the people here to make their best case for funding and design alternatives,” he said. Adding, “I would like to hold off on issuing support for phase 1.“
I feel the same way as Biederman’s last comment expressing that it’s not much money, only I’d add another perspective. Perhaps the $375,000 fed/state money needs to be seen as not that much money considering all the strings and time-lines attached to it. At a certain point, Traverse City will need to fund its own streets so that we can have control of our community. Would people donate for a street built solely to move cars? No, and it’s ludicrous to ask, but yet some think that it’s perfectly fine to ask the community to fund complete streets above and beyond the taxes that we already pay.
In the end, the Recreational Authority chooses not to release the $132,000 for the project. I agree with this non-action. Instead, they created a task force to work with stakeholders, staff and anyone else interested to see how to decrease the cost and raise more money to complete the project. I feel that most of them understand that access for people is not a special request, it’s simply how this street must be built: in one phase. Currently, the City has an incomplete plan and the rec authority, rightly, are being champion representatives of the community by demanding a higher standard from the onset.
They have a meeting on February 6th where in all likelihood Silver Dr. will be once again be on the agenda. By then, the City may once again be rescued by a generous and well-connected community that is able to find the needed funds and pool together to consider less expensive designs. Or, we may have not moved much from where we are today. As city engineer Tim Lodge noted, it makes no difference to him and engineering. They handle changes and requests all the same. If the board chooses not to fund the project as designed, then, as Lodge said earlier, “we will deal with it and move on.”
There were also comments made by representatives from TART Trails, a doctor from Munson, SEEDS, The commons and from members of the community. I didn’t keep complete notes on those comments, but everyone who spoke, spoke in favor of completing the project in phase I. As someone said, Phase I and Done.
I agree: Phase I and Done.