MOUNT VERNON — Mount Vernon City Council passed a resolution Monday night that will allow the city to move forward with the downtown connector trail project, despite a heated discussion between Mayor Richard Mavis and At-Large Councilman Mike Hillier.
Hillier abstained from voting on the measure that will allow the city to award the engineering contract to EMH&T to start the design phase of the trail that will bring the Kokosing Gap Trail westward toward South Main Street.
“I have yet to hear what it is going to cost the city in total to take it across the viaduct and across the railroad bridge,” Hillier said. “I don’t feel you should stop a project when it’s voted 6 to 1. ... Once the money is being spent, it’s awful hard to stop it, but I won’t support it at this time.”
Hillier questioned whether or not residents from the city’s west end would use the future pedestrian bridge (just east of the viaduct) to access South Main Street south of the Kokosing River.
“Just to get things straight, because there is no sense confusing the people when we are about to embark on a pretty large project for our future here, this is a trail from Lake Erie to the Ohio River,” Mavis said. “It is coming through the center of Knox County and Mount Vernon, Ohio. So this is part of that. The money is coming from transportation enhancement. These are not dollars that are [paving roads], not dollars that are building bridges — these are dollars that are building bike trails, so we are getting our share of that.”
“We are also spending $250,000 of the city’s money — $80,000 engineering and $170,000 ...,” Hillier said.
“But we’ve already said part of that will be private sector money,” Mavis said. “Somehow I think you are misinterpreting where we are going with this overall project. We have opportunity here to connect downtown with a bike trail that is literally going to generate thousands of people a year and bring people into our downtown area. ... This large bridge will be used to get people from the bike path to downtown.”
The city will receive a right of way from the county to continue the path westward to the Heart of Ohio Trail. According to Mavis, there are some “glitches” that need to be worked out for that section to come to fruition but it is all part of the overall plan.
“This project that you are voting against is part of the large-term project that helps build an asset in our community,” Mavis said.
Hillier said he continues to ask for the dollar figures associated with the entire project from the Heart of Ohio Trail to the Kokosing Gap Trail.
Mavis said until the project moves into the design phases, it would not be appropriate to give any cost estimates.
Council heard first readings on two ordinances that will increase the pay rate of the parking enforcement officer and code enforcement officer from $15 an hour to $15.23 an hour. The legislation sets the work hours for both positions not to exceed 20 hours a week.
•Approved the appropriation of $300 from the Kiwanis Club to be used for a bike rack at Memorial Park.
•Approved the advertisement for bids and contract approval on Phase A and B of the Mount Vernon Tree Planting Project. The project is funded by a grant from the Ariel Foundation.
•Heard second readings on resolutions to approve the 2013 revision of the Knox County 9-1-1 Plan, to grant an easement in the city right of way for Nash Avenue and grant an easement in the city utility easement adjacent to 119 Prospect St. Ext.
•Heard second readings on an ordinance that will amend and/or repeal the Codified Ordinances in regards to fire department functions, and an ordinance that will allow the safety-service director to hire temporary firefighters and police officers.
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