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County will seek additional grants for Yamhelas trail

County government — Board of Commissioners approves seeking funds to contribute to the two-county effort

In a 2-1 decision, the Yamhill County Board of Commissioners voted last week to apply for a grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation to go forward on the Yamhelas Westsider Trail.

The board’s approval, with Commissioner Mary Starrett casting the lone nay vote, will allow the county to seek an additional $362,000 Transportation Alternatives Program grant, which will be matched at 10.27 percent ($37,000) by the county. In 2014, the county received a $1.4 million Transportation Enhancement Grant from ODOT, with 10.27 percent ($143,780) matched by the county.

Funds from the original grant, according to county administrator Laura Tschabold, are being used for concept scoping, preliminary engineering (conceptual design and environmental review), appraisals and right-of-way acquisition along nine miles of the proposed 17-mile trail.

The additional funds, if the county is successful in securing the grant, will allow the county to assist in acquiring the remainder of the property.

The board’s decision Jan. 15 came after about an hour of testimony from a variety of people on both sides of the issues, including the board members themselves during deliberations. Those in favor outnumbered the opponents more than two to one.

Republican party activist Neal Lockhart said he opposed the trail on a number of fronts, including public safety, property rights, the need for added sheriff patrols and what he characterized as the trail’s benefit to one person in particular, Ken Wright, a Carlton winemaker who owns property along its proposed route.

“I think it’s a one-sided benefit,” Lockhart said.

Wright, owner of Ken Wright Cellars, countered that he’ll never recover the money he has put into the trail effort, but that isn’t why he became involved. He read excerpts from letters from the man serving as a liaison between the National Park Service and the counties involved in the project, Yamhill and Washington, and a woman in Minnesota who was originally opposed to a similar trail project there until she saw the positive aspects it brought to her community.

Carlton City Manager Chad Olsen testified that while many people have testified of the need for the trail from a recreational standpoint, they’re missing the economic development and public safety aspects the project would bring. To illustrate his point he read from Oregon State Police report on the death of a man run over on the shoulder of Highway 47 in August.

“Providing an alternative along High­way 47 for the people of Yamhill County is first and foremost ...” he said.

During deliberations, Starrett said she struggled with her decision to oppose seeking grant money for the trail. She cited discussions with the county treasurer that the grant matches would needlessly draw down the county’s reserve funds. In addition, she said the public works director told her maintenance on the trail would draw scarce funds and manpower away from maintaining county roads.

She also took umbrage to the claim that the trail would be a boon to children along its path, countering that it would actually be saddling them with the future costs of paying for it.

“If we’re going to do something for our children, let’s do something for our children,” she said. “Let’s not consign them to future debt.”

Stan Primozich, sworn in as commissioner earlier this month, said the amount of time and energy expended to bring the trail to fruition has been considerable and favored continuing the process.

“The benefits to the county far outweigh any costs to the county …,” he said.

Chairman Allen Springer said this board inherited this situation from the previous board, who were good stewards of taxpayer money while still looking forward.

“But fiscal responsibility doesn’t mean no vision,” he said, acknowledging that had he been presented with this at the beginning of the process he may not have “had the guts” to vote in favor of the grants.

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