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Howard rejects trail grant but will proceed with project

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

HOWARD – Despite being awarded a state grant of more than $500,000 to construct a trail, village officials are turning down the money after the bids came in higher than the amount budgeted for the project.

The Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant was for a trail from the west edge of village hall to the Mountain Bay State Trail.

The Howard village board unanimously passed a motion last month to reject the project bids and complete part of the project this year by utilizing village staff for the construction and to budget for paving and concrete work in 2022.

The village applied for the TAP grant money to build the northern-most link of a trail to connect the Mountain Bay State Trail in Howard to the Fox River Trail in Green Bay by constructing the Velp Avenue Multi-Use Trail.

Director of Engineering Mike Kaster said the village signed a state/municipal agreement to complete the project and budgeted for a total cost of $1 million with $528,192 in grant funds and the village’s share of $471,000.

However, Kaster said the total project cost including the bids would be $1,585,000, less $528,192 in grant funds and less $30,000 from Brown County’s share of widening Velp Avenue, for a total village cost of more than $1 million.

Because of TAP grant timing limitations, he said the village would not be allowed to re-bid the project, and it would have to award the project bids as received to maintain the grant funding.

Kaster said the trail would be a valuable addition to the village, and he recommended using village staff to perform the majority of the trail installation work similar to other trail projects in the past.

“We’ve built a lot of boardwalks and bridges and a lot of those trails that are (in the village’s parks), so we’re certainly capable of doing the work,” he said. “If we do release the grant money, that will remove some of the federal requirements.”

Kaster said changing how the project is constructed, along with design changes, would save the village approximately $300,000.

“If we perform a lot of the work, and then self-contract out some of the items – the concrete work, the paving and the bridge work that would be required – that would be outside our area of… expertise, we’d be looking at a total cost to the village of (in the neighborhood of $750,000),” he said.

Kaster said the savings would not only be in construction, but also in inspection fees with village staff doing the work.

“The only ramification for this is just the fact that we were awarded some (grant) money and we wouldn’t use it…,” he said. “That would potentially leave a sour taste in the mouth of some of the neighboring communities – the fact that we got money that somebody could have gotten and we didn’t use it. But I do feel as though we have some pretty solid reasons for not using it at this point.”

To complete the project by sometime next summer, Kaster said the village would expend the budgeted monies for the Velp Trail in 2021, and then would need to budget approximately an additional $260,000 in 2022.

By expending the money currently budgeted, he said the trail could be constructed in a gravel condition throughout the entire corridor, with only the bridge crossing not being improved.

Kaster said the project includes constructing a trail from the intersection of Glendale Avenue and Lancaster Creek, at the west of village hall, extending along Lancaster Creek to Velp Avenue, then along Velp Avenue to the Mountain Bay State Trail.

Public Works Director Geoff Farr said he doesn’t anticipate his department will have to forego projects already planned this year to do the trail work.

“Normally, we can fit in a number of special projects,” he said. “Depending on the schedule, we would maybe not do a small improvement at a park or something like that… Fortunately, the village has a very talented staff of employees in public works, and they’re very, very good and very efficient. Sometimes, they surprise me… I think we can get it done.”

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