Gonser Refused $1.1 million in Grants for Safety Path.

It has only been a few months since Township  Supervisor Gonser and the Board of Trustees, through their inaction, refused Federal and State Grants for $1.1 million that would have allowed our township to build a safety path from Gunn and Adams to the Paint Creek Trail.  It would have provided approximately 10,000 township residents with a safe way to access the Paint Creek Trail.

I am writing about this now because so many people are  reading these pages ( 6,500 views since we went live in July) and many of you may not have been aware of this action.   The safety path plans and grant requests were approved by Federal and State authorities.   Oakland Township was to contribute funds from the Trails and Safety Paths millage approved by the voters in 2006. There are now well over a million dollars in the millage fund.  It is our money.

Gonser was against this from the beginning.  He told me in a face to face conversation on Dec 12 2012 that he was against taking the Federal and State funds.  Gonser repeated this in a Jan. 3rd email where he said:

“I will tell you my position on trails/safety paths.  First, I strongly support private property rights and as such find that the Township suing property owners to confiscate their property through eminent domain most distasteful.  Second, I am opposed to accepting money from a government that is totally and completely out of money.  Nearly 42 cents of every dollar spent by Uncle Sam is borrowed, principally from the Chinese.

Terry Gonser”

He has contradicted himself on these topics with support of grant funding to rehabilitate the Mill Race and when he proudly accepted Federal grant funds for Fire Department equipment.  He has also proposed using the eminent domain process to obtain an easement from Flagstar Bank to build a different trail that he thought up all by himself.

We voted to tax ourselves so our government could build ” a network of safety paths trails and boardwalks to provide healthy recreational opportunities and safe routes to schools, parks and neighborhoods” ( from the 2006 ballot language).  How is our money being used? Gonser is now spending this money on a parking lot for the Paint Creek Trail.  His representative to the Township Trails Committee has proposed spending the money to maintain privately owned safety paths in large subdivisions.  This may have been a campaign promise used to gain votes in the election.

Happy Trails to You

Jim Foulkrod

7 thoughts on “Gonser Refused $1.1 million in Grants for Safety Path.

  1. Robert Yager

    Mr. Foulkrod,

    How carefully have you examined the accuracy of the information in the grant applications? Do you think the Federal Government wanted to grant $800,000 just to connect affluent people to the Paint Creek Trail? I have examined the application statements and drawings carefully and find them to be very misleading. If we had put correct facts in the application, I doubt we would have been awarded the grants. You approved this application, I believe, when on Paths and Trails Committtee. If you’d like to sit down with Ryan Felton of the Oakland Press, we can go over the facts and have them printed in his paper.

    Secondly the Board voted to reject the grants, not Supervisor Gonser acting alone, primarily due to safety concerns. I can’t believe any money was wasted planning for the grant application in the first place. That is a long step hill and we’d likely seriously injure some daredevil teenager on it.

    On the parking lot, I share your concerns.

    Bob Yager
    1146 Bear Creek Ct.

    Reply
    1. foulkrj Post author

      Mr. Yager,
      Thank you for your comments. I owe it to our readers to add some comment. First, the Board did not vote to reject the grants. On review the video record you will see that Gonser did not entertain any motion on the grants. He made comments that the previous Board had not acted in a timely fashion so the current Board need take no action on easements that would ensure that the approved grant funds would be received. Treasurer Langlois then made a motion on a related topic to re-prioritize the remaining trails projects. The motion was approved. The grant approvals were the result of a scoring process which placed high priority on 1. Public Safety and 2. the interconnection of two regional trails – The Poly Ann Trail an the Paint Creek Trail. I think the safety concern was treated callously by the Board because in spite of the fact that the proposed safety path plans, including the steep hill you mentioned, were AASHTO safety standards compliant. These are the standards published by the American Association of State Highway Officials that are used to design roads, bridges, sidewalks and safety paths across the U.S.. Trustee Baily’s comments raised the specter of children being injured without any reference to facts or evidence of non-compliance with proper engineering standards.
      Jim

      Reply
  2. Rich Bosler

    Dear Mr. Foulkrod:

    I am in full support of the current Board of Trustees examining other alternatives to gaining access to the Paint Creek Trail along Adams Rd.from Gunn Rd. to Orion Rd.
    Hear, Hear for thorough and common sense decision making in making sure our tax dollars are spent in a wise and rational manner.

    This Federal and State funding is not free money from the Federal Government, State Government or Local Government. It is our tax dollars. No one needs to be reminded that the Federal Government is still without a budget and we are $17 trillion in debt and running which your family and mine are responsible for,
    This project was comparable to the one proposed years ago in Congress and called the Bridge to No-Where in Alaska. The money was ultimately spent in LA after hurricane Katrina.
    In summary, I am in full support of the Board on this issue.

    Reply
  3. Bob Yager

    Mr. Foulkrod,

    Did you personally verify that this connector met AAHSTO standards. I don’t think Paths ands Trails Committee owns a copy of the ASHSTO manual. If not, how about you buy the manual ( about $140 ) and we will sit down together and get to the truth on this piece of this issue.

    In the same meeting I can show you the misleading statements in the application. Perhaps you and I and Mr. ichalski and Ryan Felton of Oakland Press can meet for breakfast to discuss.

    Bob Yaqer

    Reply
  4. foulkrj Post author

    Mr. Yager,
    I have confidence in and respect for the Township’s engineering firm, Professional Engineering Associates. The firm signed the plans as a firm of licensed professional engineers. I did talk with Jeff Smith, one of the project’s engineers, about how the section Safety Path traversing the steep hill meets AASHTO standards. His explanation satisfied me.

    I did read the grant application at the appropriate time. I found nothing “misleading”. If you understand the grant application process fully, the people who could help you understand the details of the Adams Road Safety Path application are the author, Mrs. Milos-Dale and the people who reviewed and approved it at the State and Federal level.
    Jim

    Reply
  5. otsllc

    James – I have a few questions for the Watchdogs.

    Do you believe that this path would save over 12,000,000 auto miles per year as in MDOT stated in their grant application to the “FEDS”? That’s like taking 750 cars off the road.

    Did PEA show us an existing long steep bike path like this so we could investigate its safety record? I have seen nothing like the proposed steep boardwalk trail anywhere in Michigan or Ohio.

    What did PEA tell you specifically that made you think this was safe – not just AASHTO compliant, but safe for 14 year olds.?

    Do you really believe that maintenance would have been $3,000 per year on a $1,900,000 installation. This would be 0.15% per year for the 7-15 year life estimated by county for such paths. How about at least 3% per year or $57,000 per year maintenance on average?

    Has PEA been involved in such unusual boardwalks with high “trestles”. How sure are we that their cost estimates are accurate. We would have been responsible for cost overruns.

    The whole “sales pitch” for the federal $800,000 grant was that this connected Paint Creek Trail and Poly Ann Trail via Bald Mountain and Waldon Rd. safety path. We did not get grants to connect 10,000 wealthy OT residents to PCT. The most misleading part is the omission of the fact that there is no safe way across M-24 from Bald Mountain park to Waldon Rd. safety path and therefore no connection between the two trails.

    How much of the $500,000 spent out of the trails millage by the “Fogler Board” since its inception in 2007 did this project cost? The waste on this project could have been prevented by citizen input at open meetings of the Safety Path and Trails Committee which should have happened under the Open Meetings Act. Most people who know that road have an immediate what adverse reaction about the safety.

    Where does Mr. Michalski stand on this project?

    Bob Yager

    Reply
    1. foulkrj Post author

      Robert,
      I don’t understand the 12 million miles number.

      The standards published by the American Association of State Traffic and Highway Officials are used throughout the United States by the engineers that design our roads, bridges, and safety paths. These standards have been developed over 99 years and represent best practices. The impossible notion that we should not invest in projects that are beneficial to the community unless they can be proven to be safe for any misuse would leave us without any roads, bridges or safety paths.

      PEA has earned our confidence over many years for their engineering services including cost estimating. I will need to review the most recent drawings but, after the change that moved the trestle part of the path into the road right of way the significantly elevated section was only about 30 feet long.

      Michigan, Oakland County and Oakland Township are committed to developing, over time, a network of pedestrian routes to bring health, safety and economic benefits to the community. The plan we were looking at last night showed three potential routes to connect the Polly Ann and Paint Creek Trails. Being a plan, we should not reject it because it is not yet complete. A safe crossing at M-24 and Waldon Rd. is not going to be built unless our communities commit to building the rest of the southern (purple) route. To accuse the people who worked hard to try to get this project done of “misleading” anybody in this regard is not fair.
      The net expense of the alternative routes to connect the most populous area of the township with the Paint Creek Trail; Gunn road and Silverbell/Gallagher were judged to be, on net, far more expensive to the community because of the lack of grant opportunities.

      If money was wasted on this project it is because of Supervisor Gonser’s deliberate inaction that led to the loss of $1.1 million of approved funding. Remember, from the beginning, Gonser’s stated objections to this project were: 1. the use of Federal and State grant money and 2. The acquisition of easements across two residential parcels. Also please note that since that time he has accepted Federal grant money and is enthusiastic about getting grant funding for projects of which he approves.

      Jim Foulkrod

      Reply

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