Buchanan Commission expected to apply for grant to extend McCoy Creek Trail

BUCHANAN – Buchanan City Commissioners received good news about plans to extend the McCoy Creek Trail at their meeting Monday night. Plans call for the trail to be extended across the River Street bridge to Walton Road and the River St. Joe brewery.

Monday, commissioners heard from both Suzannah Deneau of the Wightman engineering firm and community volunteer Jerry Flenar of the Friends of McCoy’s Creek Trail organization. Commissioners did not take any action to formally apply a state grant Monday but are expected to in May.

Flenar reported on his efforts to gather donations from local groups and businesses to go toward the city’s local match for the project.

“I’m happy and proud to report we’re close to the amount of funds we need to move forward for the local match plus design and engineering work,” he said.

He said the amount needed to be raised for that local match plus design and engineering work is $106,000, and he has already raised or gotten pledges for $91,050.

“I expect we can meet and hopefully exceed the $106,700,” he said. “We’ve got two or three pretty big hitters still to come in so I don’t see any problem meeting that goal.”

“This is a tribute to the people of Buchanan coming through again like usual, no one we’ve asked has said no,” he added.

Flenar said he has primarily contacted businesses for donations over the last month and a half but has avoided reaching out to restaurants and similar businesses that have been hurt most by the pandemic. He said businesses and groups that can’t give now are being asked to consider making a pledge next year or the year after.

Individuals will also be given the chance to participate in the project. He envisions selling bricks as another part of the fundraising effort.

“We could raise significant funds for the advancement of the trail,” he said.

He asked commissioners to also consider making a pledge to the project on behalf of the city.

“When we go after state funding, it would be nice to have a commitment from the city to pledge money,” he said. “A nice pledge by the city commission would go far with the state.”

Flenar and Deneau reported that the project has gotten letters of support from Buchanan Township and Niles Township officials which will also be a positive with state officials who look favorably on projects where municipalities work together.

The trail route out Walton Road is bordered by both townships. Deneau said that Buchanan Township has also made a $5,000 contribution toward the project.

She asked commissioners to consider approving a resolution in support of the trail expansion project. Mayor Sean Denison told her he doesn’t foresee a problem with doing that but wanted commissioners to have a chance to look through all the documents before voting. That vote is expected to be taken at the commission’s May 10 meeting.

Deneau said the city will be applying for a Michigan Department of Transportation grant for $131,000. The deadline for that grant application is mid-June. She noted that the project has already received another state grant for the project for $123,660 from the Niles Area Transportation Study organization.

The McCoy Creek Trail currently runs from southwest to northeast through the city of Buchanan. The proposed project out Walton Road to the brewery will extend the trail northward with the eventual goal of meeting up with the Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail extension from Niles to Berrien Springs.

Flenar told commissioners earlier this year that his organization still has the long-term goal of extending the trail southward. The trail currently ends near the ball fields on the city’s south side. The southward extension would take it to Bakertown and eventually to Three Oaks.

Monday’s meeting also featured the introduction of new City Attorney Mitt Drew of the Kotz Sangster firm, approval of appointing Michigan Gateway Foundation Executive Director Michael Rowland to the Buchanan Common Committee and the recertification of the city’s investment policy.

City Manager Heather Grace presented commissioners with a preliminary draft of the new 2021 budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. She said she would submit a more polished version to them at the May 10 meeting and then hold a work session between that meeting and the commission’s second May meeting.

One budget issue the commission will have to decide is what to do with new marijuana revenue. Grace has proposed possibly expanding the police department into the rest of the Edgewater Bank building which the bank will soon vacate, hiring a new police officer to patrol the downtown or moving utility building to the Edgewater building.

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