Trails town hall should happen down the road

Trails town hall should happen down the road

Fairmont’s City Council decided this week to forego a town hall meeting on possible trail system improvements. The vote was 3-2, with a mix of thoughts involved. Once councilman called such a gathering premature. One wanted to know if his colleagues support the use of eminent domain to take private land for public use. A third councilman objected to the mayor’s plan to limit public input to two minutes of comments or questions. So, in the end, no town hall meeting.

The city has been eyeing and weighing trail issues for decades now. One major stumbling block involves a strip of land off Knollwood Drive that could connect Cedar Creek Park to the rest of the trail “system.” But the landowners have (long) objected to a trail across their land. This is where the eminent domain question arises.

A new factor in all this involves Fairmont’s local option sales tax, approved by voters in November. If approved by the Legislature, the tax would provide the city with new revenue for things like trails upgrades. But questions would remain about how much to invest in trails, and where.

Trails can be a tourist attraction, but there is no guarantee the tourists will show up. When they don’t, an overbuilt trails system can be considered a major investment showing no return. Of course, trails are nice for locals as well. But should the local option sales tax be taken by the council as a license to spend freely? No.

We believe a town hall meeting on this issue is a great idea. But the mayor is absolutely right that comments have to be limited, although two minutes might be a little tight. We hope this forum can be held sometime in the future.