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The Athens City Council meets for its regular session in the Athens City Building on November 18, 2019. (FILE)

City Council: Councilmembers discuss possible amendment to financial agreement for Baileys Trail

Athens City Council discussed the possibility of amending a section of the Baileys Trail agreement, which could potentially lock City Council into a financial commitment for the entirety of the Baileys Trail project.

Athens Mayor Steve Patterson requested on Monday that City Council amend a section of the Baileys Trail agreement with the Outdoor Recreation Council of Appalachia that states that if members withdraw from ORCA, they are also withdrawing from the financial commitment of Baileys Trail at the end of that fiscal year. The amendment would prevent City Council from opting out of that financial commitment, which is a show of support for the project, Patterson said.

The city of Athens will spend about $90,000 annually on the trail within the next 20 years, according to a previous Post report.

Some councilmembers were concerned about the possibility of not being able to opt out of the financial commitment of Baileys trail if other entities decided to not go through with their own funding.

Councilwoman Sarah Grace, D-At Large, expressed her concern for entering such a long-term commitment.

“It was important for the city to be able to opt out because it’s not typical that we enter into 20 year agreements to financially support projects outside the city limits,” Grace said.

Seth Brown, director of Quantified Ventures, informed City Council that this amendment is meant to send a message to potential investors for the trail.

"(The amendment) is to send a signal of the city’s commitment. This isn't an agreement with some third party stranger who you don't know,“ Brown said. “This is sending the signal that you’ve already sent.”

Other councilmembers are concerned about Athens County’s commitment to the Baileys Trail project. Councilman Jeff Risner, D-2nd Ward, expressed his disappointment in the county’s lack of commitment.

“I’m for the project, but what I don't like is there seems to be no reciprocity from the county for us … I just don't see any enthusiasm on their side,” Risner said.

Athens County has currently not passed a resolution in support of Baileys Trail.

Councilwoman Chris Fahl, D-4th Ward, also introduced a climate emergency endorsement for the city of Athens.

“I think that we’ve been pussyfooting around with a lot of things that we’ve been discussing about climate emergency. This is a call to arms about a … climate emergency and putting our full resolution toward addressing this issue,” Fahl said.

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