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City to give land, materials, labor but no cash for trail work

Plans to a develop a portion of the city park near the ball diamonds into an offroad bike trail system moved forward at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

Council members approved the Phase 1 plan allowing for use of the park space in the hillside near the baseball fields for the trail system and agreed to having public works staff and use of materials such as rock and dirt be used in the trail project. However, at this time the city is not putting money toward the project, instead encouraging organizers to first seek support from the community. The cost to hire someone to build the proposed trail was estimated at about $10,000.

Resident Jorgen Hamann of Grey Wolf Earth Works had proposed the mountain bike trail project for the little-used area of the park. The project would include about 1,600 feet of single track trail that is 18 to 24 inches wide as well as a variety of skill run obstacles for riders.

What the city didn’t do, is commit any up front money for the project or agree to hire Hamann to do the work.

Mayor Mike Wellner explained that city wants groups who come in and ask for things to be involved especially with the fundraising aspects. He said having groups do the fundraising to make projects happen, addresses concern from residents over using tax dollars for these purposes.

He said their contribution at this time was permission to use the land, some labor and purchasing of materials for the project.

Council member Christine Weix also noted that if the city were using public funds to hire someone to do the trail work, they would need to go through a bidding process rather than just hiring Hamann’s business, Grey Wolf Earth Works.

She said this is why the city prefers to work with community action groups who then take the lead on the projects.

Hamann explained that they are in the process of getting that community group together. “We are working on pulling ourselves together,” he said.

He described trail building as requiring skill to be done correctly to address things like erosion mitigation, which limits the amount of labor that can be donated to the project. Hamann noted there is a growing trail building industry in the state and encouraged the city if they sought bids to look at trail specific builders and not just excavation companies.

Council members gave their blessing to allowing the community group to move forward with the mountain bike trail project.

In other business, council members:

 Heard from 69th Assembly District Candidate Lori Voss, an Abbotsford business owner and former mayor, who is running for the open seat as a Republican. The city and town of Medford, along with Stetsonville, and the towns of Browning, Deer Creek and Little Black are part of the redrawn 69th district with the remainder of the county in the 68th district. Voss is facing Karen Hurd in the Republican primary on August 13.

 Approved the compliance maintenance annual report for the city’s wastewater treatment plant operations. Plant superintendent Al Zenner reported the city maintained a 4.0 GPA on the annual report card, with the only difference between 2022 and 2023 being an increase of 3 million gallons of trucked in waste.

 Approved a resolution formally committing the city to pay back a state Safe Water loan that the city is seeking for the development of Well No. 14 located near Pep’s Drive along with replacement of water main at the high school. The program includes a 50% principal forgiveness. The loan will be repaid through water utility revenues.

 Approved an updated schedule for sewer rates in the city reflecting all the changes to rates across all the categories. The previously approved resolution had not included all the rate changes.

 Approved appointing Mayor Mike Wellner to serve as an alternate city representative to the Medford Area Fire Commission. Under the bylaws for the board, which oversees fire department operations, each municipality has representation on the board based on their share of the equalized value of the overall district. If designated members from the municipalities are unable to attend the meeting, the rules allow alternates to attend and vote in their place.

 Approved the renewals for all classes of liquor, alcohol sales, and tobacco/ vape licenses included one for Smoke World Vape, which was turned in late last week. The licenses were set to expire at the end of June.