On March 26, county commissioners tabled a request to sign a new bike trail agreement. The resolution would cost the county $16,667 in matching funds towards the reconstruction of the route and guarantee that Houston County pay one-third towards maintenance of the Old Highway 61 Trail for 20 years.

The trail runs from the 1-90 Mississippi River Bridge to the southern edge of Dresbach. EDA-Coordinator Jordan Wilms brought the proposal, which came through the Houston County Trails Committee.

"It's technically in Winona County, but the majority of users will probably be from the City of La Crescent," Wilms said.

MnDOT District 6 would pay 90 percent of the $500,000 cost to reconstruct approximately two miles of the 2.386-mile route. The rest would come from a three way local match, which includes Winona County and the city of La Crescent.

Wilms told commissioners that the La Crescent City Council had already approved the plan.

Commissioner Judy Storlie favored the plan. "I just think it would bring more tourism into the whole county," she said. "It's so minimal, what we would have to pay to get that (project)."

Other members were more reserved, but did not rule out signing on to the agreement.

"I just have a problem with taking money away from my constituents and putting it up there," Commissioner Steve Schuldt said.

"I'm not opposed... but I guess I'm not sold yet, either."

"My people are saying we need to extend the bike trail from Houston," Chairman Justin Zmyewski remarked. "My only concern is spending money on such a small portion of trail."

"I'm not against it," Commissioner Teresa Walter said. "But, I don't have enough information on it."

She suggested placing the item on next week's agenda, after looking at the county's budget to see if funds could be shifted into the project.

Commissioner Dana Kjome also expressed interest, but noted, "It (funding) worries me. We're kind of strapped for cash."

Wilms said that the imminent reconstruction of the I-90 Bridge likely influenced MnDOT's decision to offer $450,000 as part of their "Corridor Investment Management Strategy Pilot Solicitation Funding Project".

The refurbished I-90 span is slated to include a bike trail crossing. If the local match/maintenance agreements are not signed before the end of April, there's no guarantee that the funds will be offered in the future, he noted.

County Engineer Brian Pogodzinski stated that maintenance costs would be "pretty minimal."

During the finance committee meeting that was incorporated into the weekly agenda, Finance Director Carol Lapham said the "Parks" line item in the budget could be changed to "Parks and Trails," and funds from the commissioner's "Other Professional and Technical Fees" transferred into it. That fund held $74,845 at the end of February.

Wilms said that the county may be able to pay for their share of the local match through a federal recreational trail grant, but that's not a certainty.

The next window to submit such an application would be next February.