Village on track to apply for rail-trail grant

The Enterprise — Jo E.Prout

Presenting plans for a rail-trail center and museum, Voorheesville Trustee Brett Hotaling, right, displays a map at Tuesday’s meeting. Village Attorney Richard Reilly, holding a corner of the map, drafted a resolution for a grant application for the project. Listening at far left is Trustee Jack Stevens.

A vendor area would stretch along Grove Street in Voorheesville between the large circle at top left and the smaller one towards the center of this plan for a Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail Head Project. An observation deck and rest rooms would be located near the rail trail on the edge of the top circle with parking and a rail museum across the street. The circle at lower right encompasses proposed nature trails and more parking.

VOORHEESVILLE — Village Trustee Brett Hotaling on Tuesday gave the village board a final presentation on the proposed rail trail expansion before asking the board to formally apply for a grant due in early June. The Transportation Alternatives Program grant, if awarded to the village, could allow the development of the Grove Street trailhead of the rail trail with a rail museum and additional parking in Voorheesville’s downtown business district.

Hotaling, as board liaison for the committee working on the development plans, said that the group collected 150 signatures of support for the Helderberg Hudson Rail Trailhead project the previous weekend at the Memorial Day parade.

The nine-mile trail that reaches from South Pearl Street in Albany and runs through the towns of Bethlehem and New Scotland includes a three-mile section now open in New Scotland, with its end, or beginning, in the village.

In February, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that $50 million in federal funding was available statewide from the Federal Highway Administration through a Transportation Alternatives Program. The state’s Department of Transportation will administer the program, which will fund a variety of alternative transportation projects, including the construction of bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

Previously, Village Engineer Rich Straut, of Barton & Loguidice, said that rail trail projects, and projects that promote economic development, would be eligible for grants ranging from $200,000 to $2 million out of the state’s $50 million allotment.

A project like a rail museum, restrooms, and parking would make “a great terminus of this whole rail trail,” Straut said earlier. “Multi-jurisdictional always gives you points,” he said, referring to the villages, towns, city, and county involved on the rail trail.

The proposal Voorheesville will submit by June 11 calls for $1.2 million in development.

“We’re going to need two resolutions,” Hotaling told the board.

Village Attorney Richard Reilly drafted Resolution #4 for the TAP grant application. The board voted to apply for the grant, and also voted to agree to make a 20-percent match in funds, if the grant were awarded.

In-kind gifts cannot be used toward the 20 percent, Hotaling said.

“Before you start, you’ve got to show it,” he said.

“You’ve got to show you’ve got the 20 percent,” Trustee David Cardona said.

The village trailhead, at the corner of Grove Street and Voorheesville Avenue, opened in December 2013. Though only open for foot traffic, the path will eventually be upgraded for cyclists.

Hotaling’s presentation included plans for the construction of a building with restrooms, a tower, and an observation deck. A second building across the street is proposed as a rail museum, and a parking area for the two buildings is adjacent to the museum. Before reaching the Grove Street entrance to the trail, users could traverse an interpretive rail park and pass rail vendors between the tower and the trailhead, according to the plan provided Tuesday.

Mayor Robert Conway said previously that a small development at the trailhead would have “little impact on residential areas,” as the nearest house is much farther down Main Street.

The plan also includes small-scale development of a parking lot and secondary access to the rail trail through nature trails at Pine Street. The board had previously discussed providing rough clearing of the area for parking, before the grant became available.

Previous development of the trail sections in the village and the town of New Scotland was financed with $17,000 donated by private contributors, the Voorheesville School and Community Foundation, and the town of New Scotland. The funds were used to update two bridges on the rail trail with safety fencing designed to protect pedestrians and drivers. In-kind donations of work by volunteers kept the cost at $17,000.

“There are things we can do on a local scale,” Conway said, referring to the possibility of not receiving funding. “We’ll certainly push forward on those,” he said.

Other business

In other business, the village board:

— Learned from Clerk Treasurer Linda Pasquali that the village has sent its first installment payment to the Voorheesville Area Ambulance Service. Trustee Jack Stevens said that he would contact the VAAS;

— Approved an extension of the village’s contract with Robert Wright for waste disposal;

— Agreed to move $100,000 into the vehicle reserve fund, and $100,000 into the water reserve fund, as approved in the 2014 budget; and

— Agreed to work with Voorheesville graduate and architectural intern Seneca Gray, of New Salem, who proposed a public art sidewalk contest to be held this summer in the village. The event is designed “to promote Voorheesville pride,” Gray told the board.

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