PITTSBURG, Kan. —
Pittsburg residents and city officials Thursday night continued discussing the pros and cons of a proposed multipurpose trail that has caused much debate in the South Rouse Avenue area.
City officials presented what the next steps for the proposed trail would be during a meeting with more than 70 residents at Via Christi Hospital, but they essentially promised that the project would not proceed unless it had overwhelming support from property owners.
Last summer, a group of residents asked city officials about the possibility of building a sidewalk or trail that would make the two-lane street safer for pedestrians.
When officials said no funding from the city was available, the residents explored other options.
Last week, City Planner Troy Graham applied for a grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation to help fund the trail.
The project would cost an estimated $900,000. The grant, if approved, would require a local match of at least 20 percent.
Initially, Graham said the 263 lot owners in the South Rouse area would pay the remaining costs by forming a taxing district, similar to the way that neighborhoods might organize for sewer or water improvements.
“If you have got a majority of people wanting something, they can petition to get it,” Graham said.
But when owners in the area were asked if they would be willing to form the taxing district, only 30 percent of them said “yes.”
Graham said that if residents would have approved a $300,000 local match that was proposed by petitioners, the cost would be $1,141 per lot owner. The amount could have been paid as a lump sum or be billed by the county over 10 years to property owners at about $114.10 per year.
Now, if the city is approved for the grant, City Manager Daron Hall said, private funding would pay for the match instead of lot owners. Residents immediately questioned whether private money would be an option.
“If we get the grant, I’ll get the private match,” Hall said. “I can’t be submitting grants and not have a way to raise the money.”
Leslie Lamb, who lives along South Rouse, said the biggest complaint she and her husband have is that the group and the city made plans for the trail without telling other residents.
“Those who are most affected by it weren’t told anything at all up until about six weeks ago,” Lamb said. “That’s the first we heard of it.”
Several residents are concerned that the trail would come through their front yards. But because the city has a 40-foot right of way from the center of the road, a section of the yard does not belong to the homeowner anyway.
Lamb said all of the driveways along the trail would be shortened, including hers, which would limit space for parking cars.
Robert Wood, who lives in the South Rouse area, said he was approached by residents who didn’t know what to do about the proposal.
“People barely got notice it was going on,” Wood said. Those who are against the trail began a petition that was signed by 75 homeowners who wanted to slow down the plan so they could figure out the details of what was being proposed, he said.
Josh Brueggemann, an emergency physician at Via Christi Hospital, addressed some of the attendees’ questions regarding the safety of having a trail or sidewalk next to South Rouse, which has two lanes and is well-traveled.
Brueggemann said he has been working at the hospital for a year and a half and has seen a few major pedestrian accidents.
“Four have been in roads, and one has been in a parking lot,” he said. “Never have I seen one on the sidewalk.”
Brueggemann said residents shouldn’t ask questions that are not common sense “because you disagree with this. Sidewalks make streets safer.”
Brueggemann and his wife, Sammie, live off South Rouse with their four young children.
“I would like to be able to take walks and bike rides in a safe manner,” he said.
Sammie Brueggemann said a large number of people walk down Rouse. “It’s not safe,” she said.
Graham said KDOT will contact the city in late April and do site surveys where the trail would be built. A decision on the city’s request would come in late summer.
Graham said that if the city is approved for the grant and there is not an “overwhelming” amount of support for the trail, the city will not go through with the project.
A STATE GRANT that the city is seeking to help pay for a sidewalk along South Rouse Avenue would require that it be 10 feet wide. The walk would be about a mile long.