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How can county afford millions for another trail?

To the Editor:
We are fortunate to have cable TV broadcast of the county commissioner meetings. Watching these the last few months has flushed out just how much the proposed new Dakota Rail Trail is going to hit the pocketbooks of McLeod County taxpayers. Folks, it isn’t pretty.
Last August 2016, the county commissioners, by a slim majority of 3 to 2, voted to apply for $2.6 million in Legacy grant funding to develop and pave the Dakota Trail for the full 18 miles from Carver County, through Lester Prairie, to Hutchinson. Local government politicians insist that we just can’t afford to pass up the so-called free Legacy funds to pay for the Dakota Trail. This is misleading if it doesn’t disclose how much McLeod County money must be spent to be able to get the Legacy grant money.
Not mentioned at the time, but learned since, the county is expected to pay for the engineering costs for the trail. The engineering cost for the full 18 miles is expected to cost around $300,000, based on the first two miles into Lester Prairie. This is just a starter.
The maintenance costs are where the really big costs are. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) currently manages over 600 miles of paved trails across Minnesota. Currently, it costs $100,000 a mile for the DNR to resurface paved trails. Resurfacing asphalt trails is expected at least once during the 20 years that McLeod County had to commit to as a condition to apply for the Legacy grant last year.
McLeod County costs for 20 years to resurface the 18 miles of asphalt comes to $1.8 million. Does the average McLeod County taxpayer realize that the county is on the verge of committing to spend at least $2.1 million to get $2.6 million in Legacy money to develop and pave the Dakota Trail?
The problem is that even the $2.1 million is understated. The current $100,000 cost per mile to resurface will not stay the same over the 20-year maintenance commitment period. Over 20 years, at a modest 3 percent inflation rate, the current $1.8 million liability cost to the county would grow to $3.3 million, or $4.78 million if it inflates by 5 percent per year.
Can a second paved bike trail be justified with this large of a maintenance cost?
To put this into context, the county made a $3 million contribution to the $7 million jail project after factoring in Annamarie Tudhope’s estate contribution of $4 million.
Do McLeod County residents really want to spend $4 million to $5 million for the Dakota Trail over the next 20 years? It’s time to let your commissioners know your thoughts on this at www.tinyurl.com/mcleod-commissioners.
Douglas Hall