Trail will be extended in city

June 29, 2011

By GINNY WRAY - Bulletin Staff Writer

Martinsville’s city attorney will start taking steps to acquire property and easements needed to extend a walking and biking trail in the city.

The new 1⁄4-mile of trail would start west of the Pine Street access point on the city spur trail near the Dick & Willie Passage in Martinsville. It would go through a wooded area and end at a new trail head and paved parking area near the East Church⁄Church Extension⁄Oakdale intersection, according to a presentation by city Parks and Recreation Director Gary Cody during Tuesday’s Martinsville City Council meeting.

The extension would provide access to the YMCA, J. Frank Wilson Park, the Virginia Museum of Natural History, Patrick Henry Elementary School and Piedmont Arts, Cody said.

Armed with council’s unanimous vote of support, City Attorney Eric Monday said he will start the legal proceedings immediately to acquire the property in the 500 block of Church Street where the trail head would be built, with parking.

The property owner, Peter Martin Stolbun, has been a fugitive since 2000, and the city is owed about $12,000 in back taxes, demolition costs for a house the city removed there and maintenance on the property, Monday said.

To acquire the property, the city must advertise its intentions several times, and then a court proceeding and also a public hearing will be held. Monday said the process could take 120 days.

If the city acquires the property, it would be asked to donate the site to the project, according to council papers.

The council also agreed to pay the $123.21 annual tax bill every year for one of the easements in exchange for the use of the property for the trail.

But no city funds will be used to build the trail, Cody said. The $95,000 project will be covered by Activate funds, awarded by The Harvest Foundation, according to Cari Zimmer of Activate.

The money would include $40,000 to build the paved trail, $11,000 for a pedestrian crosswalk with flashing lights and $10,000 for the parking lot. The rest of the money would be used for iron leaves and interpretive signs, a gazebo and landscaping on the YMCA land with an informational kiosk, bronze sculptures, benches, a natural stacked rock bridge over a stream and plantings.

The wooded trail includes five Carolina Silverbell trees, Zimmer said, adding that they are facing extinction.

Zimmer added, however, that the Activate grant will expire by the end of December, so the project must be completed by then. Considering the 120 days estimated for the legal proceedings, Councilman Gene Teague suggested she ask Harvest if the grant deadline could be extended.

Mayor Kim Adkins praised the project, calling it exciting and one that will add to the quality of life in the city.

Also Tuesday, council asked City Public Safety Officer Bob Phillips to investigate grant possibilities for sirens to warn of approaching tornadoes and other weather alerts and to enhance the city’s existing warning systems.

Phillips updated council on the city’s weather alert system and options on the market for things such as siren alerts.

Currently, public notification of approaching bad weather can occur through radio⁄television; NOAA Weather Radio; social media; text and smart phone alerts; reverse 911 calls; and community alert sirens. The city has one siren at 65 W. Church St. and one on the Southside.

Phillips said social media is not used here now, and reverse 911 calls are too slow to be practical for weather emergencies.

He outlined several types of siren options, their advantages and disadvantages. He added that some of the mechanical types of sirens cost from $8,000 to $14,000, and others can cost $23,000 to $38,000 per unit.

Some companies that sell the units offer help finding grants to pay for them.

In giving Phillips the go-ahead to seek funding, the council said it wanted the final say on any grant application due to possible maintenance and other costs that could result from new equipment. It also urged more efforts to educate the public on severe weather.


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