Trail of concerns found in Iowa code
CUTLINE: Blazek Corporation workers continue working on the recreational trail being constructed between Fayette and Volga River Recreation Area. The contractors are pictured on a portion of the $1.1 million project along Jade Road just north of Fayette. (Mike Van Sickle photo)
Trail of concerns found in Iowa code
By Mike Van Sickle
A retired district judge addressed the Fayette County Supervisors on Monday in regard to the county’s ongoing recreational trail construction projects.
Former First District Judge James Beeghley of rural Fayette said he was prompted to talk with the local officials after reading Supervisor Jeanine Tellin’s “From the Chairman’s Desk” column that was published in The Union’s July 17 issue.
From reading the column, Beeghley said among his concerns was “who sets the policy” in regard to trail maintenance.
From his standpoint, Beeghley believed that Tellin’s column implied that Fayette County Conservation should currently maintain the Nims Bridge/Elgin/Clermont recreation trail.
Tellin wrote: “In the absence of an engineer, I was asked by the foreman of the Secondary Roads if it was okay for Secondary Roads to do the work on the bike trail, and I said no. My feeling was that Secondary Roads had enough to do to maintain the roads and that this was Conservation’s responsibility to maintain the bike trail.”
She later stated, “Therefore, Secondary Roads was told to have a written contract with the Conservation Department before the work was performed and that the Supervisors be given a copy of the contract.”
Beeghley said it was of his opinion that the responsibility of maintenance is not subject to a contract. Rather, under state code the Secondary Roads Department is responsible for maintenance of items in their right-of-way.
Beeghley pointed out that under Iowa Code Section 309 any decisions of maintenance is referred to the county engineer, not the Supervisors.
According to Iowa Code Section 309.21, he noted, “All construction and maintenance work shall be performed under the direct and immediate supervision of the county engineer who shall be deemed responsible for the efficient, economical and good-faith performance of said work.”
In addition, Section 309.67 states, “The county board of supervisors is charged with the duty of establishing policies and providing adequate funds to properly maintain the secondary road system. The county engineer (pursuant to section 309.21) and board policy shall adopt such methods and recommend such personnel and equipment necessary to maintain continuously, in the best condition practicable, the entire mileage of said system.”
Beeghley also took issue with Tellin’s comment that she recalled, “those who promoted the trail told us that there would be millions of dollars in revenue coming into the county!”
“I don’t see the point in even making that comment,” he said.
The rural Fayette landowner said at the time of the trail discussions he was among those attending the Supervisor meeting(s).
While commenting that he did not recall anyone indicating such a statement, he added, “I find it to be a mischaracterization of any comments (made) at that time.”
Noting the success of Lanesboro, Minn., bike trail system, Beeghley said, “I’m not saying we will be similar to Lanesboro, but it (trail system) will benefit Fayette County.
“I feel a lot of people who come here (Fayette County) are influenced by our natural beauty and there are very few other (Iowa) counties who can take advantage of that,” he continued.
Beeghley praised Upper Iowa University, City of Fayette, Fayette City Clerk Christie Dennis, and other Fayette County residents for putting their “heart and soul” into the ongoing recreation trail project between Fayette and Volga River Recreational Area.
Reading from Iowa Code Chapter 465B Beeghley earlier reported, “the general assembly finds that recreation trails provide a significant benefit for the health and well-being of Iowans and state visitors. Iowa has a national reputation as a place for hiking, walking, and bicycling.
According to the code’s purpose statement, “The use of recreation trails has a significant influence on Iowa’s economy. Iowa’s scenic landscapes, many small communities, and existing natural and transportation corridors are ideally suited for new recreation trails to support recreation and tourism activities such as walking, biking, driving for pleasure, horseback riding, boating and canoeing, skiing, snowmobiling, and others.”
Beeghley noted as recently as November 2010 that the current Fayette County Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution Monday in support of establishing a recreational trail between the City of Fayette and the Volga River Recreation Area (VRRA).
In addition, Beeghley reminded the Supervisors that the resolution included language in support of a network of trails throughout the county.
After reading the Supervisor chairman’s column, Beeghley was prompted to wonder “if Fayette County’s stance has been to reverse” its previous support of the trail system(s).
Supervisor Vicki Rowland said she had not changed her opinion and remained committed to the development of the ongoing Fayette County recreational trail system.
Tellin said that it was her understanding that there was private funding available to help fund the maintenance of the trail system.
“Without a written contract we get into a mess here at the Supervisor’s Office,” she noted before adding, “I have had more positives (comments from column) than negatives. This is the first negative comment I have received.”
“I get the other side of opinions,” stated Rowland.
While expressing his appreciation to Tellin for her continuing openness on subjects concerning Fayette County, Beeghley reiterated that his review of the Iowa code was of his opinion only and recommended that the Supervisors contact the county attorney’s office for his opinion.