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Shooting Star Trail project gets funding

Remaining land needed will be condemned

By Roxana Orellana

rorellana@postbulletin.com

Phase three of the Shooting Star Trail will move forward and connect Taopi to Adams.

Members of the Prairie Visions committee applauded in support of the Mower County Board decision to accept a $416,000 federal grant to develop the trail. The board also voted to start condemnation proceedings on the seven parcels it still needs for the trail segment.

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"It's definitely necessary for the economy of the county," said Eileen Hutchins, president of Prairie Visions.

Gerald Meier, a member of Prairie Visions, said a vote against the trail would have killed the project.

The group has been working since 1993 to develop the trail.

The county board had to make a decision because the Minnesota Department of Transportation indicated all paperwork and specifications for the project would need to be submitted by April 15 or the grant would be terminated.

The trail between Taopi and Adams includes about 4.25 miles of right-of-way.

The county began working with landowners in August to explain the project and negotiate for the land needed.

Appraisals were completed and offers were made to homeowners in December. Of the 14 landowners approached, seven accepted the county's offers.

That land plus donated land amounts to 2.5 miles of the 4.25 needed for the trail. On Tuesday, the county board had three options: abandon the project, give owners the offer they want, or start the process of condemnation for the remaining seven parcels.

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After some discussion and comments from the public, the board voted 5-0 for the third option. Board member Ray Tucker encouraged county staff members to work with parcel owners to avoid the legal process.

County Attorney Pat Flanagan said that if the process moves to court, he will represent the county, not the homeowners. The market-value offer would be the one pursued in court.

During negotiations, the county offered 10 percent above market value but felt it could go no higher, Tucker said.

Meier told the board that the project has a lot of support and that many years of work have been put into it.

"It's not easy to find funding like this," Meier said. "We think it's a good project that can help our town and our community."

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