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08-23-05 Final planning begins

By Tim Cox

  Final engineering for the proposed West Bank walkway will proceed, even though some city officials still have questions about the project.

  Because nearly all of the $31,570 needed for engineering work is donated from the Celina Rotary Club, city council members agreed to approve hiring Choice One, Sidney, to draft final plans for the estimated $1.7 million path. But members of council's personnel and finance committee plan to discuss the issue further before construction proceeds.
  The vote was 6-1 in favor of hiring Choice One. Council member Ed Jeffries voted against the issue. Jeffries said he has no doubts the project would benefit the West Bank area but said he cannot support the plan because voters rejected a lakefront revitalization master plan at the polls a couple of years ago. The walkway was a central part of that master plan.
  Council member Denny Smith also was prepared to hold up approval of the engineering contract until some questions are answered. But after Rotary President Jeff Larimore reiterated that group's desire to see the project get started, Smith capitulated.
  The Rotary Club has donated $150,000 over 10 years toward the project. The first $30,000 was handed over at Monday's meeting to pay for the engineering work. The city also has received $250,000 in a state budget line item to go toward the project.  Finalizing the engineering should help answer some of council members' questions about the project, said Kent Bryan, the city's community development consultant.
  The walkway, originally pitched years ago as a boardwalk, will be a concrete path with a grassy strip between the path and West Bank Road. The project will involve filling in about 25 feet of the lake with stone and a new concrete seawall. The concrete path would be built on top of that.
  The path and the grassy area both will be about 12 feet wide.
  Officials also plan to design sections of the path that would jut out about 10 feet further than the rest of the path. These areas could be used by fishermen or anyone who wants to take a break along the walkway.
  Approval of an Army Corps of Engineers permit to fill in that area of lake is expected soon, Bryan said. City officials also plan to annex West Bank Road and the stretch of water to be filled in so the whole area is inside the city.
  The estimated $1.3 million balance of the project would be paid through general obligation bonds or some other public financing, Bryan said. The annual payments would be made from revenue generated from a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district that was set up in the area. The TIF generates about $125,000 annually, a number that will only increase with further development.
  Council members still must approve the plan to pay for the walkway with TIF funds. Some officials cautioned against counting on that money, which may be necessary for other improvements.
  For example, West Bank Road is deteriorating and is likely in need of major reconstruction in the years ahead, Smith said. Those issues will be discussed by personnel and finance committee members at a meeting set for Aug. 31.


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