The Hebron City Council decided to toss the bridge portion of the Rock Island Trail project during its regular meeting earlier this month. “It’s going to cost over $1 million for the bridge,” said councilwoman and trail committee chairman Beth Goldhammer, “and if we’re going to do this, I have to know if everyone is on board. I think in today’s economical climate it will cost even more than that and before we proceed, I want to know if this is something we are committed to.”
She went on to say that although Hebron received a $500,000 grant, the city will have to match it. “As soon as we accept this grant, we’re in it for $500,000, but I think it will be closer to $700,000, even $800,000 by the time we get started,” she added.
“I’ve never been in support of the bridge,” councilman Jay Bauer said. “I think it’s a waste of money. We can put trails on both sides of the river, put a turnaround down there, whatever. The bridge isn’t necessary.”
In December 2009, the City received the grant through the Nebraska Department of Roads’ transportation enhancement program. The bridge was to connect 1,046 feet of future walking trail over the Little Blue River; in essence connecting the southwest portion of Hebron including the hospital, assisted living and care facility to the downtown area.
Five months earlier (July 2009) the bridge was estimated to cost $715,000, a price tag that shocked the council, but was also thought to be the crux of securing the $500,000 grant. In February 2010, the City also received a $25,521 grant from Nebraska Game and Parks’ recreational trails program, a grant they intend to use.
As for the bridge part of the trail system, Goldhammer said the time had come to either “fish or cut bait” and if the council was not together on this, it wasn’t going to happen.
“I can’t go there,” said councilman Robert Dodes of the projected dollar figures. “I won’t go there. I agree with Jay, we could even put a little gazebo down there with a sign saying Little Blue River overlook or something. I’m all for a path going down both sides of the river, but I can’t agree to the bridge.”
Goldhammer said the City would need to start soliciting private funds to ease the cost and that there was support out there.
Councilman Kurk Wiedel said, “Yes. We sat here with a room full of people saying what a great idea this was, how beneficial to the community this would be.”
“But no money was ever mentioned,” Bauer stated.
“Because no one ever asked them,” Goldhammer said.
Although support for the bridge was noted, the council agreed, 5-1, to scrap that portion of the plan and discuss other options for the trail section by the river. Goldhammer was the lone hold-out.