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Shown above is the overhead projection that council members were shown of the proposed route of a proposedtwo-mile extension of the Trail de Paris through west and north Paris. The city has applied for a grant from TxDOT for the project, which has an estimated cost of $533,260 for construction, with the city required to provide at least 20 percent — $106,652 in cash — in matching funds. (eParisExtra photo by Charles Richards)
By CHARLES RICHARDS
An application for a grant that would pay for construction of a two-mile addition to the Trail de Paris that would primarily be used by school children through west and north Paris has won the unanimous support of the Paris City Council.
Shawn Napier, the city’s director of planning and development, laid out the details at Monday night’s city council meeting.
District 6 councilwoman Cleonne Drake made the motion, seconded by District 2 councilwoman Sue Lancaster to pledge the City of Paris’ backing for a grant from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) that would provide federal assistance for up to 80 percent of the estimateed $533,260 cost of building the route.
The council approved the grant application by a vote of 6-0.
The project — which requires a minimum of a 20 percent local funding match in the amount of $106,652 — would link Heritage Park, Justiss Elementary, the Safe Routes to Schools project, Leon Williams Park, the Boys and Girls Club, the Red River Valley Fairgrounds, and T.G. Givens school.
Teachers in the Paris Independent School District mounted a campaign of e-mails and phone calls in support of the project.
Unlike other grants the city has applied for, TxDot requires the funding match to be in cash, not in-kind, Napier said. The city’s match would not be required until the 2013-2014 budget year.
“That match is a minimum match,” Napier emphasized, “and if you read through the grant application, they’re actually wanting you to put more than 20 percent in there.”
The higher the match, the more points an application receives in consideration, so the more money that the city can pledge to the grant, the stronger its chance of getting the grant, Napier said.
“We’re looking to try to find some other local sponsors to make contributions to this as well, but our deadline for submission is Nov. 16, so we’re running across a short timeline. Plus we have to talk to two property owners that own sections of property through this two-mile area,” he added.
“What are the odds of us getting this grant?” asked mayor pro-tem Richard Grossnickle, who presided over the meeting in the absence of Mayor AJ Hashmi, who is out of the city for two weeks.
“We’re actually tying seven places together, so we get big points just from that alone, I think, because they want you to go from somewhere to somewhere,” Napier said. “Things like a circle track or a park, they exclude those right off the bat. They don’t want people even submitting that.”
The two-mile addition to Trail de Paris through west and north Paris “would provide improved access and safety for bicyclists and pedestrians while joining neighborhoods, schools, parks, fairgrounds and the local boys and girls club,” Napier said.
The City of Paris supports the grant application, Napier added. The city already owns most of the right of way needed for the Trail de Paris extension, which follows the path that trains once traversed. The city would need to try to acquire right-of-way or easements from two property owners just north of Bonham Street, Napier said.
The City of Paris is committed to the project’s development, implementation, construction, maintenance, management and financing, and is willing to enter into an agreement with TXdot by resolution or ordinance should the project receive funding, Napier said.
This project is part of the overall master plan for the Trail de Paris.
The project would build about two miles of trail bringing seven different entities into the Trail de Paris, starting with Heritage Park, which includes the historical society, a museum and the Paris Economic Development Commission.
“It’s already been approved as a Safe Routes to School, which would bring sidewalks all the way down Graham Street from Justiss Elementary to approximately this location (two blocks north of Heritage Park),” Napier said, pointing attention to a chart on an overhead projector screen.
“We would propose to send this around to Leon Williams Park by the way of bicycle paths on Northwest Seventh Street, continue around on property all the way across North Main street to MLK,” Napier said.
The main route would be east for about 10 blocks from Justiss Elementary and then northeast to the south boundary of the old Casa Bonita apartments, east to MLK Boulevard and north Main Street, then east several blocks to Givens Elementary. Heritage Park, Leon Williams Park and the Boys and Girls Club/Fairgrounds would be linked through spurs off of that route.
“How would that cross North Main Street. How would that be routed?” Grossnickle asked.
“Obviously, these are going to be mainly kids using the Trail and we want to make it as safe as possible,” Napier replied. “We’re looking at some flashing LED lights, like the flashing lights
Grossnickle: “How would that cross north main. How would that be routed?
“We’re looking to go as safe as we can. We’re looking at doing some LED flashing lights like at PJC (Paris Junior College) on Clarksville Street, where you cross from the administration building to the north side of Clarksville Street. We’re proposing to spend about $35,000 for safety signage. I believe it would be a push-button, which is a wait for a flashing light to come on,” Napier said.
“We got a letter today from the principal of Justiss Elementary, saying she already has kids going this way to the Boys and Girls Club, so they’re obviously getting there now. So anything we can do to make it safer would help,” Napier added.
“I know there’s lots of people in support of this. I’ve gotten emails and phone class. There’s a lot of support on this. We’ve got to keep our kids safe,” Drake said.
Like Drake, Lancaster and District 5 councilman Matt Frierson noted the e-mails and phone calls from teachers urging the council to approve the grant application.
“To all the teachers who really got behind this and got out a lot of e-mails, l they were very well organized and well thought out. I was glad to get those e-mails in support of this,” Frierson said.
Napier said the city had considered this TxDot grant before, “but it cannot be used for rail bank property. However, this portion of the old railroad is not rail bank. Actually, the city owns the majority of the property.”
It will be sometime next year before the city learns whether it has gotten the grant, said Erickson, who was at the council meeting and was introduced, to applause from the council and audience in appreciation of the work he has volunteered in support of Trail de Paris over the years.
“As most of you know, the city gave Earl an ‘Energized Bunny’ award that kind of defines him as the ‘Never Quitting, Keep on Going” guy. I’d like to thank heim for everything he does for our trail,” Napier said.
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