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Louisa County Supervisors might say good-bye to $1.3 million in federal funds if they can’t come to an agreement on how to come up with a local match

WAPELLO, Iowa -- Two of Louisa County’s three supervisors are having second thoughts about a federal grant that will provide funding for a bicycle trail along the Great River Road — to the point that approval of a county-wide trails plan is on hold.

It was recently announced that Louisa County would receive $1,350,000 of National Scenic Byways funding to build the bicycle lane, which would amount to 80 percent of the cost of the project and that would also require a local match to get the money.

At a recent Supervisor meeting, County Engineer Larry Roehl said the county could dip into its state Farm-to-Market allocation for the remaining 20 percent.

But despite some initial support for the idea, some supervisors are having second thoughts about the project if it means using Farm-to-Market funds.

“Three weeks ago, I said it was great. I didn’t know there was a 20 percent match on our side,” said Board Chair Randy Griffin. “I’m hearing from the public who waited years for farm-to-market roads. Local farmers have contacted me about the Brush Creek bridge. I’ve got concerns from the public.” Supervisor Chris Ball agreed, adding that “a bicycle path will be nice, but if it pushes back something like the Buffington bridge, we’ve got problems.”

Already, Ball said, her phone has “been ringing off the wall” about the trail proposal.

Roehl responded the Great River Road project was funded by a grant that required a local match.

Later in the meeting, the board failed to approve a resolution submitted by the Trails Committee to adopt a Louisa County Trails Master Plan over concerns about where local matches for grants would come from.

“You’ll know what the match for any grant would be before we’d apply for it,” said committee member Justin Bushong. “You’re not bound to any financial plans before signing off on the commitment.”

But Ball did not second Supervisor Paula Buckman’s motion to approve the resolution.

Bushong had said that approval of the resolution might help secure grants. “If we don’t get the funding, it’s going to go somewhere else,” said Buckman.

“I have a problem with that attitude, too,” was Ball’s terse reply.

Bushong said a recent public meeting outlining the plan was attended by around 30 people, all of whom favored the plan. “I was kind of surprised no one there opposed the trails,” he said. “It kind of tells you a lot. There’s no facilities in this county for trail users.”

Bushong added he believes trails will attract visitors from outside the county, which will be good for area businesses.

Conservation Director Katie Hammond said several bicyclists from Burlington and Muscatine are planning to take part in the Sept. 16 Trails Kickoff Bicycle Ride, concluding at the Oakville Community Center where a bicycle trail along the Great River Road and the grant for it will be announced.

Hammond said the trails plan will be presented to the various city councils in Louisa County for resolutions of support. No action was taken, but the matter was tabled until after it is presented to the communities.


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