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

Rappahannock News - - COMMENT - BY 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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