Sabetha City Commission: Walking trail is approved, Sixth Street repairs to be made
The Sabetha City Commission took steps in a new direction at its meeting Monday evening, Nov. 13.
A crowd gathered again at the meeting in anticipation of the commission reaching a decision about a proposed walking trail beginning at the corner of Main and Sixth streets.
The trail has brought some controversy over the past two years as some citizens and commissioners have been on opposing sides.
A compromise was reached at Monday’s meeting as the commissioners approved the walking trail — and set the stage for a Sixth Street improvement project to take place in conjunction with the building of the trail.
Present for the meeting were Mayor Doug Clark, Commissioners Norm Schmitt, Nick Aberle, Maridel Wittmer and Julie Burenheide, City Administrator Doug Allen, Assistant City Administrator Bill Shroyer and City Clerk Steve Compo.
“I want to change things up and introduce a new proposal on Sixth Street,” Mayor Clark said as the meeting began.
Clark proposed repaving Sixth Street from Main to Berwick Road. The repaving project would include a concrete street with curbs with a walking trail alongside of it, replacing the water line under the street and electrical upgrades. The street improvement would allow for the proposed 10-foot wide walking trail to be reduced to five feet.
Clark outlined the bullet points of the $2,077,000 price tag for the project as follows:
• Repaving Sixth Street, $1,585,800
• Walking Trail (city portion), $271,200
• Electrical upgrades, $100,000
• Rainbow Cable, $20,000
• Waterline under Sixth Street, $100,000
The City would need a short-term four-year loan to finance the project, with a $300,000 annual payment.
City Administrator Allen explained that a $300,000 annual payment would not pay off the note in four years. The final payment could be a balloon payment, and the city could refinance again for another four years.
The advantage of this option over a bond issue is that if the city has extra money, Allen said, the note can be paid off early.
“The reason we are thinking of doing this is that Sixth Street has been on our list for years to redo. There is a lot of traffic on this street,” Clark said. “The goal would be to have a really nice street. We wouldn’t do any other serious street work for seven or eight years.”
Clark said that the city would continue to do street maintenance, including chip and seal, but would not do any other major streetwork unless it was an extreme need.
“I have mixed emotions but I am firmly of the belief that since we applied for the grant and received it, we should accept it. It makes sense for us to do this all at once,” Clark said.
“I think this is a good plan. It incorporates a lot of things that are needed,” Commissioner Schmitt said. “The sidewalk is a want project. We have tackled a lot of want projects and made some nice improvements, but we have to improve the infrastructure as well. Those are needs.”
Schmitt said the city needed a comprehensive plan of the needs, and he felt the Sixth Street project as a whole tackles some of those needs like water failures, electrical improvements and street improvements.
“I think we can do a steady plan over time,” he said. “The gravy for it is there are grant dollars to help with this project for the sidewalk. In general, it makes a lot of sense.”
Commissioner Aberle agreed.
“I think this is a win-win all the way across. There is something for everyone here,” Aberle said. “It’s a package deal, and I don’t see anything wrong with it at all.”
Commissioner Wittmer said she was “on the fence.”
“My main problem is as to where the walking trail was turning by the [NorthRidge] church. Why not go on to the ballparks instead of turning?” she said. “I also think the railroad track will never be safe — new sidewalk or not. We can’t be saying this will make that area safer, because it won’t.”
Commissioner Wittmer said if the city is planning a new street altogether, she felt the sidewalk should be continued to the Sixth Street ballpark.
City Administrator Allen said he did not know for certain whether the path could be changed from what was submitted with the grant application. The $2,077,000 bid for the Sixth Street project included the cost of continuing the sidewalk all the way to the Sixth Street ballpark anyway.
Melissa Detweiler, who worked on the grant application, said that the purpose of the grant is to connect two locations and she thought that still would be accomplished if the trail extended all the way to the ballpark.
“The only reason it was proposed to turn was because Sixth Street wasn’t in good condition to continue it straight,” she said.
All commissioners agreed that they felt the path should continue to the ballpark, and if KDOT would not pay for the remaining portion to the ballpark that the city should continue it anyway.
Clark opened the discussion for public comment. Julie Krebs said she was grateful that the plan is being adjusted and appreciated the legwork it took to pull this together.
Patron Robert Ruddick asked commissioners about liability if someone is injured while using the trail and about maintenance of the trail, specifically snow removal.
Mayor Clark said the commission would check on the liability, but he thought it would be the same as any other sidewalk and would fall on the property owner.
“I think it will be fair to say the city will clean the snow for the whole trail because it is a public trail and not just a sidewalk,” Clark said.
In 2015, representatives from Grow Sabetha formed a committee to work on developing a walking trail within the city.
The group surveyed community members. Survey results indicated that community members desired a safe walking trail.
The Walking Trail Committee members discovered a grant available through the Kansas Department of Transportation which would pay for a portion of the trail. If accepted, Sabetha’s trail could be connected to a larger trail — the Yellow Brick Trail — traveling through Northeast Kansas, connecting cities and points of interest.
The Walking Trail Committee proposed a trail that travels north on Sixth Street from Main Street and circles around the Sports Complex. The trail originally crossed Sixth Street twice — at Roosevelt Street and Lincoln Street.
Over the last few years, many individuals expressed concern over the location of the trail and the cost the city would incur. The most recent changes had the trail running along the east side of Sixth Street until Lincoln Street. At Lincoln Street, the trail would turn east in front of NorthRidge Church and then go north up to the ballpark.
Despite expressed concerns, the city voted at a November 2015 meeting to proceed with the KDOT grant application, 4-1, with Commissioner Burenheide opposed.
If received, the KDOT grant would cover up to 80 percent of the cost of the first phase of the walking trail. The remaining 20 percent would be covered by the city. The estimated cost of the project as originally submitted, was $1.3 million. Approximately $400,000 of that would be the city’s responsibility.
This fall, the Committee submitted the application to KDOT for the second time — and a portion of the project was approved.
In October, the city received word that the Kansas Department of Transportation had awarded $299,760 toward a $570,960 walking trail in Sabetha as part of KDOT’s Transportation Alternatives Projects.
Sabetha was one of 34 projects awarded grant money. Other area cities that were approved for grant money included Hiawatha and Seneca.
The portion approved begins at Main Street and goes north on Sixth Street to the ball park. The proposed trail still crosses Sixth Street at Roosevelt Street and at Lincoln Street. The second part of the trail — around the Sports Complex — was not approved at this time, but could be applied for again.
After a lengthy discussion with citizens at the Oct. 9 meeting, commissioners tabled the discussion for the next meeting. Due to Commissioner Schmitt’s absence at the Oct. 23 meeting, the discussion was tabled until this past Monday night.
Some of the areas of concern for citizens in attendance at the Oct. 9 meeting were trail safety, trail location, enforcing city codes, repairing existing streets and sidewalks and what would happen if the city turned down the grant money altogether.
Also at the meeting:
Commissioners approved Wage Resolution No. 2017-17 for Brittany Springman, who has completed her 90-day orientation.
Sabetha Police Chief Robert Wahwasuck was present and introduced new officer, Paul Streeter.
Wahwasuck also presented his police report.
The next commission meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 27, at City Hall.
Krista Wasinger70 Posts
Krista Wasinger is Co-Editor of The Sabetha Herald, where she has been on staff since 2011. She specializes in city reporting and feature stories, as well as photography and page and advertising design. Krista is a 2004 Fort Hays State University graduate with a degree in communications studies with an emphasis in journalism. She lives in Sabetha with her husband and four children.