Shepherdstown steps up to secure bike path
Shepherdstown Mayor Jim Auxer appeared before the County Commission Thursday hoping to iron out details on a resolution needed to move forward with the proposed bike path along Route 480. The mayor was disappointed.
Jefferson Commissioners were adamant in their previous stance not to commit to any type of maintenance of the path which will be constructed within the county by the State Department of Highways. The State has indicated they will not maintain the path and commitment of such is needed prior to construction getting underway.
The Commission had agreed in 2013 to help match funding to receive more than $600,000 from the State. Their total donation given has been $39,000 although they agreed to give $75,000. A reduction in the amount requested by the State led to the reduction in the county’s amount.
Auxer, who told commissioners that Shepherdstown will step up and sign on to maintain the path, asked the group to commit the remaining $36,000 of their original committed sum to help cover any overrun costs on the project.
Commissioners did not see eye to eye on the allocation of the additional funds, even if they may not be needed.
Commission Vice President Jane Tabb, who ran Thursday’s meeting in the absence of Walt Pellish, president, opposed the extra allocation, commenting, “We are letting two employees go at the end of June. Our financial house is not flush.”
Commissioner Patsy Noland agreed, saying “I can’t in good conscience, when we’re letting people go, fund this path.”
Hoping to secure the additional funds, Dale Manuel proposed the monies be taken from the county’s capital fund since the project would be considered a capital expense. He suggested the funds be set aside in a special account should they be needed. Lyn Widmyer agreed, saying the county needs to be a partner in the bike path project.
While the two commissioners who opposed setting aside funds in the capital account indicated their inability to commit future commissions to a contract, an earlier precedent was set when the Commission set aside $80,000 for the purchase of the old Cement Mill Property in Shepherdstown. Those funds were not needed when the property was secured in another manner and the funds then were reallocated by the county. Manuel said the same thing could be done with the requested $36,000 since there is no guarantee that the funds would be needed.
Widmyer argued strongly for support of the path and the commission’s participation in it saying that the State rarely gives grant money to the Eastern Panhandle and to refuse the funds would likely ensure the loss of future grants.
“This is horrific to turn down that money,” she argued.
The vote on the matter was tied which resulted in a negative decision to hold the funds if needed.
“This is just shameful,” Widmyer said.
Auxer addressed the commissioners saying, “That’s too bad. We are sorry to hear that the commissioners won’t fund this.”
He went on to say that the commission will be removed as a partner in the project with the Department of Highways and their monetary donation will be noted as just that, a donation.
Shepherdstown’s council will vote on the matter to completely take over the maintenance and any additional costs at their next Town Council meeting.