Readers may have noted a recent article in the local paper discussing neighborhood concerns surrounding the realignment of Chester Creek near Muldoon and DeBarr roads. Unsurprisingly, this was the most time-intensive matter at our February 28 meeting.
The crux of the issue was thus; should we accept a federal grant to re-route the creek? Because the most likely course of the new stream channel would enable commercial development and shrink the available footprint for a proposed park most of the e-mails and phone calls leading up to the meeting said no.
But at the meeting one of the east side Assembly members offered a substitute version accepting the grant but compelling additional engagement with the community prior to construction. That seemed to mollify most, but not all, of the folks testifying in person. And I was starting to lean that direction as well.
As we discussed the matter further the municipal attorney noted grant terms requiring much of the work to be completed this year, meaning it was unlikely an effective community engagement process could occur. And, while extension of periods of performance (POP) is almost de rigueur on federal projects, when asked about extensions he cited the dire consequences of non-compliance. Other Assembly members noted that, in the convoluted acquisition of this property, sale of the commercially viable land was pledged for paying back revenues used in that transaction.
Having been around projects like this before I had a bad feeling about where this was heading. I could already see bureaucratic inertia keeping the creek’s course as currently planned. And if area legislators somehow find capital dollars to satisfy historic transaction debts I wouldn’t be surprised if they fell victim to the governor’s line-item veto pen (perhaps with tacit support from an administration trying to project other priority funds).
So, in the end, I simply voted to reject the grant. It passed anyway, and I’m worried the process will inspire false hopes only to see them dashed months, or years, from now. I hope I’m wrong.
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