Traverse City News and Events

Boardman Lake Trail Project In “Final Stretch”

By Beth Milligan | April 10, 2018

A years-long effort to complete the trail loop around Boardman Lake is in its “final stretch,” according to TART Trails Executive Director Julie Cark, who told Traverse City commissioners Monday construction on the final 1.5-mile segment could start as soon as this fall.

Clark appeared before commissioners to give an update on the estimated $5.5 million project, which will close the gap in the trail loop between Fourteenth Street and Medalie Park. The trail will hug the west side of the rail line between Sixteenth Street and Northwestern Michigan College’s (NMC’s) University Center campus and cut across Boardman Lake via boardwalk to Medalie Park. Another off-road trail segment will provide a connection from NMC and the loop to the Bay Area Transportation Authority (BATA) transfer station on Cass Road, while a new bridge will provide an improved connection from Medalie Park to the east side of the trail loop.

Design firm Prein&Newhof is almost finished with engineering work on the project, according to Clark. “We are eighty percent through engineering, which is how many tons of asphalt (are needed), really what does this boardwalk look like, what are the railings looking like,” she explained. “In May we should have all the engineering done, so that’s when we’re hoping we’ll have that last public open house so everybody can see what the trail’s going to look like.”

Clark said project partners – which include the City of Traverse City, Garfield Township, Grand Traverse County, and TART – have now secured $5.2 million in funding for the project. The single largest funding source is the Grand Traverse County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority (BRA), which is ponying up $3.6 million in funds designated for public infrastructure projects. More than $1.2 million is also committed in public grants, including a $600,000 Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant and a pending $648,000 Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant. TART Trails has also committed $400,000, while other pending funding sources include a federal $300,000 Land and Water Conservation Fund grant, a state $60,000 Coastal Zone Management grant, and an $800,000 commitment from Garfield Township that will go into a dedicated maintenance fund for ongoing trail care. If all anticipated grants come through, total funding commitments could reach $6.4 million, project documents show.

Clark noted cost estimates for construction were generated off Prein&Newhof’s preliminary design, and said an updated estimate will be created once engineering is complete. “Nothing’s getting cheaper (in the construction industry), so we are asking them to be conservative with their estimates so when we get that final budget we can build (the trail) for what we said,” Clark said.

Clark continued that a significant chunk of funding “is not cash on hand. All of those grants are reimbursements. So that means somebody has to pay upfront, and they get paid back.” The BRA’s contribution, for example, would be an annual payment toward the trail costs as the organization captures tax increment finance dollars on its projects. Clark told commissioners she worked with City Manager Marty Colburn on “putting together financing options” to cover upfront construction costs, and “the one that is really leading the way is a bond. So you can expect some conversations…on having a bond for this project.” Clark stressed again that “the revenue source is set” to cover trail construction, but the bond would allow the project to start now while reimbursements flowed in in the future.

The success in fundraising could allow construction to begin ahead of schedule – potentially as soon as October. Clark said timing would depend on the release of funds from MDOT and “the bidding climate” in the construction industry, with the project potentially put out to bid this August. “We do anticipate construction of some sort happening this year, and full construction…(occurring) next year,” Clark said. The trail is targeted to be completed by fall 2019.

Also at Monday’s meeting…
City commissioners discussed a request from Colburn to reinstate a property tax administration fee. The city in the past has charged one percent of the total tax bill for a property as an administration fee (ie, a $3,000 tax bill would have an additional $30 fee on top). Colburn said the city absorbs significant costs on behalf of other governing agencies in administering property taxes, and noted increased costs related to a rising number of tax tribunal cases mean the city was essentially doing “pro bono work” for those groups. The city’s policy says a property tax administration fee is automatically charged unless city commissioners adopt a resolution waiving it, which they have done for several years. Colburn asked the board to consider allowing the fee to be charged going forward.

Because commissioners were in study session Monday, they did not take any action related to the request. Several commissioners expressed a desire to learn more about the proposal and discuss it with Colburn at a future meeting before making a decision. While Commissioner Michele Howard said she’d “like to see that money collected so it could be put to good use” by the city, Commissioner Brian McGillivary pointed out the proposal amounted to a tax hike for taxpayers. Should the fee be implemented, it would generate approximately $426,000, according to documents provided by staff.

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