New rec’ path goes to voters in March

Manager lays out Plan’s particulars

Elodie Reed

By Elodie Reed

Staff Writer

Just
The Facts

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ST. ALBANS TOWN —St. Albans Town in March will ask voters to use local option tax (LOT) revenue for a bike and pedestrian path project.

A public hearing will be held on Monday, Feb. 23 at 6:30 p.m. at St. Albans Town Hall to discuss the proposed budget and article items on the town’s Warning.

In Article 5, the town proposed to use up to $211,041.20 of LOT revenues annually for 10 years to fund up to $1,768,424 in construction costs for a mile-long bike and pedestrian path from St. Albans Town Educational Center (SATEC), along the St. Albans State Highway (SASH), to and through a box culvert underpass to connect with the Collins Perley Sports & Fitness Center.

Asking for voter approval, said Town Manager Carrie Johnson, is the next step in the project’s process.

She added that St. Albans Town has:

  • identified a need for pedestrian infrastructure in the area of SATEC and Collins; Perley due to safety, health and recreation needs and in accordance with the town’s sidewalk master plan;
  • put together a steering committee to handle the project;
  • worked with Broadreach Planning and Design, of Charlotte, to create a conceptual plan;
  • and consulted with landscape architect Jim Donovan of Broadreach and Ruggiano Engineering, Inc. of St. Albans to estimate construction cost.

Johnson said he voter approval is needed to move ahead before putting the project to a bid.

Johnson said efforts would be made to cut the costs. The about $1.77 million estimate includes a 10 percent contingency for unexpected costs.

The following are the four project segments and their costs.

  • Segment 1 is the portion of path running along SATEC, up the north side of the SASH to Grice Brook Road. Estimated cost: $375,000.
  • Segment 2 is a path on Grice Brook Road, across Grice Brook with a pedestrian bridge, and over a grassy area with a 10-foot-wide paved path to Thorpe Ave. Estimated cost: $136,500.
  • Segment 3 is the portion of the path continuing along the north side of the SASH and crossing to Collins Perley via a box culvert underpass. Estimated cost: $625,000, with $350,000 for the pre-cast box culvert alone.
  • Segment 4 is the last portion that includes small improvements to the existing Collins Perley path where it meets the new path. Estimated cost: $37,000.

There also are some extra costs.

Johnson said LED lights along the entire path would cost about $272,500. Other costs, amounting to $220,000, include a stormwater treatment facility, traffic control items and design permitting costs.

“The design and permitting is the most expensive,” she said.

Johnson said the town has approval from the Vermont Agency of Transportation, rights-of-way agreements regarding land owned by local developer Sam Smith and has verbal approval from the City of St. Albans to construct the path on portions of road belonging to it.

Now all that remains is gaining voter approval. This will depend on taxpayers’ opinion of the project and local option tax, a one percent tax on all items that already have state sales, rooms and meals and alcoholic beverages taxes applied to them.

Proposed funds

The local option tax was approved last spring to fund infrastructure projects in St. Albans Town. It went into effect on July 1, 2014 and LOT earnings from that first quarter totaled $169,608.68.

The Messenger did request to see which businesses in the town brought in the highest percentage of revenue, though Department of Taxes Commissioner Mary Peterson responded that information was confidential.

The bike and pedestrian path is the first official proposed project to use LOT funds.

“Most people seem supportive of using the local option tax funds for this project,” said Johnson.

The amount – $211,041.20 annually for 10 years – was estimated by a bank, said Johnson. She is also looking at other funding options.

“We’re going to continue to apply [for grants],” Johnson said.

On Feb. 5, the state offered more than $2 million in grants under the Transportation Alternatives Program for projects like this one.

St. Albans City, Montgomery and Enosburg Falls were among the recipients. Johnson said the town didn’t apply due to the lengthy grant application process.

She also said the town needed to demonstrate it could get a project to completion – it has received sidewalk grants in the past for projects that were never done – before asking for more state money.

“I think we need to have one success story – constructed and used – to move forward,” said Johnson.

She added that this project may be the first sidewalk project to – if approved – be constructed in the town, though it won’t be the last.

“There’s a number of projects out that that can certainly be second, third and fourth,” said Johnson.

Use of LOT

While the proposed path may be the first opportunity to use the LOT revenue, there will be others in the future. St. Albans Town has decided to use its LOT revenue towards infrastructure projects, though other municipalities choose use that money for other things, such as lowering property taxes.

According to Johnson, St. Albans Town went with the project route because its less risky. The LOT option is something decided by the state legislature, and could technically be repealed.

“There’s always a legislative risk,” said Johnson.

“Given the revenues we’re receiving [from LOT],” said Johnson, “if that risk came up, we could pay it [the project] off earlier.”

Even if the town did use LOT funds to reduce property taxes, though, Johnson and other town managers feel it isn’t likely state legislators would repeal the one percent tax option now, since more than a dozen municipalities use that revenue for capital projects and reducing taxes.

“I think a number of communities would raise that concern if it started going down that path,” said Johnson.

In addition, the state takes in 30 percent of the revenue made with LOT.