Douglas County puts off decision on Baldwin City’s trail easement funding request

photo by: Journal-World Illustration

The Douglas County Commission meets in the historic courtroom on the second floor of the county courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St.

Douglas County commissioners indicated Wednesday that they were interested in helping Baldwin City with its purchase of a trail easement along the Midland Railway, but said they wanted to fold the request into their budget discussions for 2019 rather than approve it outright.

Baldwin City Administrator Glenn Rodden requested that the county provide $94,167 in annual installments of $18,833 over the next five years. The money would help the city recoup part of the $354,000 the Baldwin City Council approved in April to purchase 11 miles of hiking and biking trail easement along the railway.

The railway used the money it received for the easement to repair a section of track that was washed out last August in a flash flood. Because of the flood damage, Midland could only use the northern five miles of the 11-mile railroad for its tourist excursion train rides.

Rodden said the city had already received commitments of $25,000 each from Mid America Bank of Baldwin City and the Baldwin City Economic Development Corporation and $12,500 from the Douglas County Economic Development Corporation that would cover part of the easement cost. He also said he was making the same request of the Franklin County Commission that he was making of Douglas County leaders. If both counties were to approve Rodden’s request, Baldwin City’s total cost for the easement would be $94,167, the same as each county’s contribution.

Commissioners expressed support for the request, but said they wanted to put off a decision until the county’s 2019 budget discussions were underway. Hearings for the 2019 budget are tentatively scheduled to start Monday. Commissioners also agreed they would like to be presented with an option to fund the request through a one-year allocation rather than in five-year installments.

In other business, commissioners approved a conditional use permit request from Mary and Jay Bessey to open an event center at the former Marion Springs Elementary School in Worden. The applicants plan to host reunions, weddings, receptions and other gatherings at the old school, as well as make classrooms available for conferences and classes.


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