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The Suburbanite
  • Closing the gaps along the Towpath trail

  • Commissioners on Wednesday approved buying a sliver of property in Bethlehem Township for $5,500 so the Stark County Park District can build a bridge to close one of the remaining gaps of the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail.

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  • The Stark County Park District is a step closer to closing one of its two remaining gaps along the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail.
    The park’s Board of Commissioners and the Stark County commissioners each agreed Wednesday to buy a 0.297-acre property for $5,500 from Tenia and Garry Sears at 10624 Shepler Church Avenue SW in Bethlehem Township. Commissioners also agreed to sell a 0.166-acre piece of county-owned land to the Sears for $300.
    Stark Parks will use state and federal grant money to reimburse commissioners for the purchase.
    NEW BRIDGE
    Stark Parks Director Robert Fonte said the park district needed the sliver of land so it could build a short trail leading to the new bridge that will span the Tuscarawas River and will connect the towpath trail between Stark and Tuscarawas counties. Roughly 25 miles of the 110-mile towpath runs through western Stark County.
    Fonte said the new 260-foot-long bridge that will be built south of Shepler Church and north of Fort Laurens State Memorial is estimated to cost $900,000 with state and federal grants covering all but $140,000 of it. He said the Stark County Park District has set aside $35,000 for the project and foundations and donors in Stark and Tuscarawas counties will cover the remainder.
    Fonte said the park district will seek bids for the project in roughly two weeks and expects the project to be completed in roughly 18 months.
    He was happy to see the project move forward.
    “This project has been actively worked on for probably eight years,” he said.
    He said the park district had to move forward with the project this year or it would have lost some of its grant funding. That urgency also a primary reason the park district and commissioners agreed to a last-minute price increase — from $2,000 to $5,500 — to buy the Sears property.
    “It was cheaper to pay the higher amount than to fight over it,” Fonte said. “We didn’t have time to do another appraisal.”
    OTHER TRAIL GAP
    The only other section of the towpath in Stark County that remains unfinished is at Lincoln Way, south of the Lake Avenue trailhead, in Massillon. Park officials hit a snag when the Norfolk Southern railroad company denied the park district access to cross its railroad tracks.
    Fonte said a project that will reroute the trail around the railroad tracks is in the design phase but hopes it could be constructed sometime next year. It’s expected to cost around $800,000.
    Stark County commissioners
    WEDNESDAY MEETING
    OTHER ACTION
    • Approved a one-year agreement with the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority that pays the transit agency $72,000 a year to take military veterans registered with the Stark County Veterans Service Commission to their medical appointments in Cleveland Monday through Friday. The Cleveland route, which has a stop in downtown Cleveland, also will be open to riders not associated with the veterans commission but they must pay $2.50 for a one-way trip and $5 round trip. SARTA Executive Director Kirt Conrad said a kickoff ceremony for the new bus route will be held March 4 at the American Legion Post 44 at 1633 Cleveland Ave. NW in Canton.
    Page 2 of 2 - • Hired former Assistant Stark County Prosecutor David Bridenstine at $125 an hour for up to $20,000 a year to review contracts on an as-needed basis. Administrator Michael Hanke said Bridenstine’s specialty is contracts dealing with sanitary sewer projects, such as the agreement being negotiated between commissioners and Canton City over $92.5 million worth of improvements at the city’s sewage treatment plant. The county is expected to be responsible for 48 percent of the cost, Hanke said.
    • Approved the annexation of 10 acres of land owned by Janice R. Wilson in Osnaburg Township to East Canton. A public hearing on the proposed annexation was held on Feb. 6.
    • Extended the completion date of the heat, air conditioning and ventilation system upgrade project for the Stark County Dog Pound by five weeks after MDS Associates spent seven weeks reviewing the project’s design due to concerns with the equipment involved. The county’s subdivision engineer said the review typically takes two weeks. Commissioner Thomas Bernabei said he had called the people involved in the project to express the board’s dissatisfaction with the delay. The upgrades are now slated to be finished by March 7.
    UP NEXT Meet at 10 a.m. Monday for a work session on the second floor of the Stark County Office Building at 110 Central Plaza S. in Canton.