Apparently ready and willing to drop a $400,000 federal grant for construction of the Redmond Trail portion of a joint city/county project of long duration and considerable intricacy because it requires a local match of $150,000, Floyd County Commission Chairman Irwin Bagwell and Commissioner Garry Fricks indicated the county has no money to spare for a project inside the city limits of Rome.
Boy, is that ever a throwback to the bad old days in these parts. Inside Rome … bad. In unincorporated area … good. Wasn’t that discarded long ago?
Rumor has it that Rome lies within the county, that both governments have more recently joined hands and forces to build a lot of a very popular hike/bike trail system and many other improvements of great value open to use by everybody. Other rumors report that “federal money” (just like “state money”) comes from all Greater Rome taxpayers who generally see darn little of it come back to them. And, of course, if the county persists in this stance then somebody else will get “our money.”
Most worrisome of all is to see Bagwell and Fricks — both of whom are on the Nov. 6 ballot against opposition with no name recognition, no campaign funds (i.e., Democrats) and supposedly no hopes of winning — revert to the old “us versus them” mentality that hampered most progress in Greater Rome until a couple of decades ago when this region’s motto of “Working together works” finally took hold. Please ... not four more years of this and a new infestation of egg-sucking snakes.
THIS CAN’T be politics so what is it? Is there a massive county bloodletting in public services beyond what has already occurred just over the horizon along this trail?
“If the city wants to pick this up, they need to pick it up now,” said Bagwell about coming up with some signal of progress that would keep a federal grant dating back to 2007 from being pulled from the county in November for inaction. He was referring to the $23,000 needed to do an archeological and ecological assessment on the trail leg running from the end of the downtown levee, across Little Dry Creek and the post office property and to and through Tolbert Park in Summerville Park.
Sometime thereafter would come the Berry Trails projected leg leading to the existing Simms Mountain Trail. Citizens should hope the city/county are already deep in negotiations with Berry College on how to get the successful network “out of town” to the north. Traversing that segment should be easy (a lot would run down Technology Parkway) and Berry, being environmentally focused and having an extensive internal trail system of its own, should have a high level of interest if security/safety concerns can be addressed. The college, remember, has a huge resident student body on a gated campus.
As for the Tolbert leg, according to County Manager Blaine Williams, because of the recession the county simply doesn’t have the money to proceed. Really? Then how come this past April the county itself was advertising for bidders to do the very same study needed to keep the grant alive and reported seven companies showed up for the informational briefing?
THERE HAS been no city or county ownership on the trail project until now. It was and is a common goal. Because of the fact that Rome/Floyd have failed to consolidate, even while knowing they have mutual interests in almost everything, the trail has thus far been built, small piece by small piece, with either the city or county taking turns in seeking federal grants and other funding.
The city not long ago completed the Kingfisher Trail leg; on the Redmond Trail the county applied for the money. Even now the massive riverfront overhaul/landscaping that Rome is doing for $2.7 million downtown comes from federal grant monies that the city reported that it saved and stored up for that purpose. Some $900,000 of it — almost double the Redmond Trail price — will go to accomplish what the original master plan for the trail system described as probably impossible: Getting past the Fifth Avenue Bridge without having to deal with vehicular traffic.
The city squirreled away $900,000 for a key trail component while the county thought it had $23,000 to keep a federal grant alive and now it doesn’t, just five months later? What happened? It can’t be revenues plunging as the city gets its operating funds from exactly the same property-tax digest and sales tax. Are the two governments really that wildly different in their ability to handle tax money for the common benefit?
Fortunately, at a meeting where Bagwell/Fricks appeared willing to just toss that $400,000 away, new Commissioner Rhonda Wallace won a delay to see if a rescue could be achieved — relying on primarily Rome interests to come up with needed money from both government and private sources. Let’s hope this works because if the county thinks it will ever again see any federal money for anything when it has proven itself unable to get anything done after five years when handed a check and asked to spend it then irrational thinking has really taken over. However, county fumbles ... Rome recovers ball ... is not the way this game should be played.
THE TRAIL system has far more importance than some realize. Its potential as a secondary transportation network is comparatively minor, despite all such chatter by those of green persuasion. As a lifestyle amenity, as the many current users will attest, it is really neat to have around, to just know it is there for health maintenance or simply “get away from it all” purposes. It also creates, forever, green corridors no matter what progress might bring.
Long quiet walks along Rome’s already-finished Heritage trail system provide an atmosphere for reflection … and remembering why these hiker/biker routes drew opposition before any of them existed.
What Greater Romans are constructing with considerable outside financing help is part of the Pinhoti Trail that starts at the Georgia end of Appalachian Trail and goes deep into Alabama. That exists as a federal route now, but with much of it running along highway shoulders where travel is made dangerous. That’s especially true of two-lane U.S. 411 to Cave Spring where big rigs roaring past threaten to blow hikers/bikers off the shoulders and into ditches.
The suggested new trail segment to erase that would use the abandoned old Cave Spring railroad bed and was the most controversial aspect of the trail proposal some 20 years ago for those of “not in my backyard” persuasion.
When this trail master plan first surfaced it was seen as an impossible dream. Now feet and bike tires touch many miles of it and, after Tolbert/Berry is completed, all attention would shift to getting the long-stalled Cave Spring leg done, absolutely necessary to link with Alabama’s completed trails and certain to get some priority in federal funding.
UNLESS, of course, the grant applicant, which must be the county because of the entirely rural area involved, has a lousy track record for getting anything accomplished.