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Chester council seeks grant for hiking path

By Don Berry
Contributing writer
updated: 11/4/2020 1:13 PM

The Chester City Council hopes the fourth time is the charm when it comes to securing an ITEP Grant to build a hiking/bike path to the Cohen Recreation Complex.

On Monday the council approved a resolution ratifying action of the mayor and city clerk in applying for the grant. The path would connect the complex to Lochhead Drive and allow individuals to walk, run, or bike from town to the park safely. The city unsuccessfully sought similar grants in the past -- in 1994, 1997, and 2006.

The path would be 10 feet wide and about two miles long, and may include solar-powered lights or possibly wired lighting.

The grant proposal totals $474,000, with the grant being responsible for 80% of the cost and the city the other 20%. The path route would vary from past plans by avoiding private property and accessing space along the state right of way.

City Engineer Harold Sheffer said he had traveled the proposed route with Park Superintendent Billy Belton. He said the area will require several retaining walls and may be best suited to be built with concrete rather than asphalt. He also noted there are a few steep places along the route.

It may be several months before the city finds out if they have received the grant.

Alderman J.D. Maes reported to the council that the Park and Recreation Committee will begin having monthly meetings starting this month. The committee has several ideas for Cole Park and will make a presentation to the council soon.

Alderman Ray Allison said the Beautification Committee is still working on the Green Space in the former Molly Moon site. He said they are having difficulty finding someone to erect a split rail fence and place "no parking" signs in the area.

Allison also questioned the proposal to oil and chip several streets yet this year. He asked if the temperatures were getting too cold. Sheffer said 70 degree days and 50 degree nights would still be acceptable. Mayor Tom Page said he trusted Maintenance Superintendent Steve Renner to use good judgment and proceed if the weather allows.

In other action:

• The council approved the ICRMT Insurance Program renewal for 2021. This includes a slight increase over last year's amount.

• Police Chief Bobby Helmers addressed the council concerning the budgeted purchase of new computers for the police department to replace 13-year-old ones in squad cars and desk tops. The council gave its approval.

• Mayor Page shared his satisfaction with the city's Howl-a-Baloo Oct. 30. He said 737 cars came through the park. The down side of the evening was the traffic jam. He added that a new route may be needed if the city repeats the activity next year.

• Four seats on the council are up for election in March, as well as the mayor and city treasurer. The candidates will soon be circulating their petitions.

Mike Blechle announced he will be seeking reelection and expects opposition. Page earlier announced his candidacy for a third term. Aldermen Dan Geisen, Danny Ohlau, and Robert Platt will soon make decisions whether they will seek reelection. Rumors are already circulating that first-time candidates will be seeking the position as well.

• The next meeting of the city council will be at 6 p.m. Monday Nov. 16.