By Joe Bachman
WISCONSIN RAPIDS — City officials have approved an agreement that would connect recreational trails from Biron to the city of Wisconsin Rapids, contingent on cooperation from Biron trustees.
According to the agreement, the city will design and construct the trail, which includes the realignment of S. Biron Dr. in village corporate limits to make room for the trail. Biron officials expressed concern over the initial price tag of $40,000 for their part, which the city revised to bring down to $25,000. The city would have contributed $15,000 towards the trail’s construction, design, and project management.
However, Biron officials still expressed concerns, as some believe the price tag is still too high, and the trail was ‘over-designed’. Officials stated they would only contribute $10,000 to the project instead, leaving the city with a $30,000 tab.
“Is access to half a mile trail worth $25,000? Honestly, if I were confronted with anyone in the village who asked me that, I’d say it’s a hard sell,” said Village of Biron Trustee Bob Walker. “Historically we’ve looked at it as ‘how must does it cost?’ — but we have to look at it is ‘how much is it worth?'”
City officials urged the project to move forward as part of their current work on First St. North and Poplar St. which will see street surfacing, utility improvements, and the installation of a recreational trail to city limits. According to officials, the spring project is expected to be completed soon, so the opportunity to construct the trail connection as a part of the project is quickly disappearing.
“We’re trying to take advantage of opportunities,” said Public Works Director Joe Terry. “It was my hope that we can make a connection that would extend from the river all the way to Biron — and with the trail there we will see a lot more pedestrian use in that area.”
Still, the city’s counteroffer was rejected by Biron officials, maintaining that a recreational trail which includes realignment simply wasn’t worth the $25,000 price tag. According to city staff, the city may be able reallocate some of the funds for the 2019 Washington St. project to make room for the extra $15,000 for the trail connection to Biron — a cost that some council members found to be worth it.
“We’ve talked about extending out bike trail system; we want to make these connections — and $30,000 is a lot of money, but in some ways significantly less than other amounts of money that we’ve voted to spend,” said Alderperson Steve Koth. “We could postpone this and do it later, but if we do it later, what’s the cost going to be down the road? Do we absorb the costs and do it now and get it over with, or do we spend the money and hope that the money we spend by doing this is also an investment in futures that we’re trying to make for our downtown area?”
Council members voted 4-2 to pass the resolution that would see the trail move forward contingent upon $10,000 being put toward the project by the Village of Biron. Biron trustees have until Friday at 5:00 p.m. to officially agree to the offer put forth by the city.