Kevin Flynn to Wasson Way group: No more money
The group pressing to get the Wasson Way trail built is asking for more city money.
And Councilman Kevin Flynn - who does not have to worry about re-election this year - is telling folks exactly what he thinks.
Wasson Way boosters have deluged Flynn and other council members with dozens of e-mails. Seen by The Enquirer, some just ask for the money, others explain why Hyde Park needs this trail and some are political, suggesting the author won't vote for anyone who doesn't allocate the money.
Here's how Flynn is responding:
"When is enough enough? The city has spent millions and millions on a 4.1 mile section of Wasson Way bike trail already. The initial proposal back in 2009 was that this would be a public private partnership in which the monetary contributions would be equivalent. The Wasson way group has spent more money on signs and buttons then it has on procurement or construction of the trail. You can count me out for any further contribution, even if it is only "$1 million".
Flynn's response is unusual, but he said he's just being honest.
"It was originally supposed to be a true public-private partnership in which the private donors would contribute the equivalent to what the city paid, but over time it morphed into a political campaign," Flynn said. "It's not been equitable. It's a 4-mile trail. Oakley just got money for their recreation center.
"There are a lot of communities that have neither a pool, nor a rec center, much less a $26 million bike trail," Flynn added. "This is about what our priorities are with capital dollars. So yeah there was frustration. But it felt good to be able to say that."
City Manager Harry Black's recommended 2018 budget would set aside $300,000 in the capital budget for the recreational trail, with no money slated for the project in 2019. Supporters want $500,000 in 2018 and another $500,000 in 2019.
Since the idea was first proposed in 2009, supporters pledged they would help pay for the project. So far, $50,000 in donation money has been put toward the project.
"We're hopeful that city can find the resources in the capital budget," said Susan Schaefer, president of the Wasson Way Project board. "We know there a lot of things they need to weigh and we respect that. We do think donors want to see money from the city. We could leverage those dollars for a private match."
The Wasson Way train was supposed to be 7.6-miles of railroad track that would be converted into a recreational hiking and biking trail which would extend from Victory Parkway near the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University to the Little Miami bike trail. It would run through nine neighborhoods including Hyde Park, Oakley, Mount Lookout, as well as suburbs like Mariemont and Fairfax among others.
But when the city lost out on a federal grant and the Parks Levy failed the project was scaled back to 4.1 miles, extending from Montgomery Road in Evanston to Wooster Pike in Columbia Township.
The city bought the land from Norfolk-Southern for $11.8 million last September. It's estimated it will take $14.1 million for design and construction of the 4.1 mile stretch of trail. So far the public through city, state and federal money, has chipped in roughly $2.7 million.
Construction of the first phase, about half a mile of land that will connect Withrow High School, the Rookwood shopping plazas and many streets in the west Hyde Park area, is underway and slated to be done by the end of the year.
The goal is to complete the 4.1-mile stretch in 5 to 7 years.
Schaefer sent an e-mail to supporters Wednesday urging them to write to the mayor and council asking for the additional money.
"I believe that a $500K contribution in both 2018 and 2019 .. is a reasonable amount for the city to contribute," she wrote.
The increased funding would mean the project is completed sooner, she explained.
"The Wasson Way organization will soon be soliciting significant private donations and this shows future donors that the city is committed to partnering to making this trail a reality for our communities," she added in the letter,
Flynn, first elected to council in 2013, is not running for re-election. He says he's tired of the politics.
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