It’s not a ball game, it’s a public works project

Ron Frazier

Since the very beginning the “School Connector Trail” has been rife with disinformation. The 18 October 2018 article in the edition of the Rappahannock News did little to correct this problem. It only repeated much of the disinformation. The ball is NOT in the BOS court, it has been in RappTrail’s court since 5 September 2018.

First, “RappTrails” did not raise the $815,000 dollars that is the VDOT grant. That money was never available to RappTrails, only the County. RappTrails was not even a Virginia Corporation until after the grant was approved. It was Rappahannock County that applied for the Transportation Alternative Program (TAP) grant, not “RappTrails.” Rappahannock County used a grant very similar to the TAP grant almost 20 years ago in Sperryville called, Transportation Enhancement Act 21st Century (TEA 21). That grant corrected storm water drainage issues, installation of crosswalks and a pedestrian footbridge across the Thornton River.

The 5 September 2018 vote by the Board of Supervisors takes into account both the PATH Foundation grant and the VDOT TAP grant monies, but still requires RappTrails to furnish “an irrevocable letter of credit or other surety for all design, construction and maintenance funds not covered by grant monies for 15 years.” That is the actual language in the motion passed by the Board. The article read in its entirety makes it sound like something totally different happened. There was no provision in the vote for Ms. Whifield’s comment, “We are in a waiting game.” (Rappahannock News, 18 Oct.)

“RappTrails” is not mentioned in any of the VDOT documents because they are not a legal entity eligible for a VDOT TAP grant. Only a municipality can be a sponsor of a VDOT TAP grant. That is why the VDOT administration agreement is with the County of Rappahannock and the taxpayers are the guarantors of the project.

There is nothing to work out right now, except the letter of credit, that will hold the local taxpayer harmless for short-term financing and any cost overruns of the project. Another piece of disinformation is the amount of money offered by RappTrails of $30,000 for 15 years maintenance. This figure falls well below the almost $18,000 annual maintenance cost per mile, plus startup costs for the trail using Fauquier’s numbers. To properly plan for ongoing maintenance into the future, the County must prorate the life expectancy of the pavement. The project was always pitched as “will not use any local funds at all, ever.” (Direct quote from Jane Whitfield 7 August 2017 Board of Supervisor meeting). The Board is simply allowing RappTrails to make good on this promise.

The article in the 18 October issue discusses the M.O.U. between the county and “RappTrails.” The article also quotes Ms. Whitfield as stating RappTrails would not furnish a letter of credit. At the 5 September meeting during public comment (there never has been a Public Hearing on the trail) Ms. Whitfield stated the same thing then and claimed RappTrails is a small non-profit corporation with no assets. If they have no assets, an M.O. U. between Rappahannock County and Rapptrails is not worth the paper it is printed on because there is no way to enforce it unless there is surety provided by the Letter of Credit. The supervisors were presented with a much better surety on the ballfield lights. It is simply an exercise in futility to describe what the M.O.U. assigns to RappTrails if it is unenforceable, no matter the number of paragraphs to the contrary.

If RappTrails comes up with the surety, then the County moves on to the design phase. Most likely there will be some difficulties discovered there as well, since there has been zero involvement by the County in this County project

RappTrails needs to follow through with the financial obligation it set for itself, and that the Board of Supervisors has required as a condition before moving forward on this project.

The longer this divisive issue festers the worse it’s liable to get. As a resident and member of the community I plead with RappTrails, and its supporters, to put this issue to rest.

The writer is the longest serving member of the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors, representing the Jackston District.

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