Budget hearings for the city of Solon wrapped up last week, centering on the 2022 capital plan, with one of the larger components being community development, which includes the proposed rails-to-trails projects.

In the 2022 general capital plan, which amounts to $12.9 million in requests, a total of $5.3 million is projected for the city’s joint purchase of 7 miles of Norfolk Southern rail corridor with other communities for one of two rails-to-trails projects.

The Norfolk Southern trail starts east of Harper Road and measures over 7 miles, ending at Treat Road in the city of Aurora.

Another $3 million is allotted for a Solon to Bainbridge Township trail, just steps from Chagrin Falls.

Mayor Edward H. Kraus noted that these amounts for the trail projects are not appropriated and still subject to approval from city council.

Progress of the discussions of a trail from SOM Center Road to the Bentleyville line and further plans to extend it to Bainbridge had halted in 2019 due to a lack of commitment from the Cleveland Metroparks to build the bridge linking the trails.

But Mayor Kraus said he is now close to a lease and development agreement with the park system to construct the bridge that would connect the trails from Solon to Bainbridge.

“They would do the whole project,” he said of the park system, and Solon would pay for its own piece, which is a 2-mile section in the city.

“The money that is in there for capital is not appropriated, it is just put in there,” he said. “When there is an agreement, we still have to come to council for approval and other issues.”

Mayor Kraus said he is hoping to reach an agreement by year’s end, but that is not yet confirmed.

“There is still lots of work to be done finalizing agreements,” Mayor Kraus said.

There is grant funding still to be obtained, as well as potential access in next year’s state capital budget, he said.

The trail projects aim at converting abandoned railroad lines to walking and biking paths.

Mayor Kraus said of those residents who live near the trail and have expressed opposition, citing privacy and safety issues, “that’s all going to be addressed.

“But this is public property that belongs to the city,” he said. “The city bought it for public use.

“There are a lot of moving pieces and parts of what we are looking to do, particularly with Community Development projects,” Mayor Kraus noted in his opening remarks. In addition to the trails, there is a Library Innovation Center proposed, which the city has committed to $1 million in funding.

The total requests for general capital projects is separate from infrastructure work, which is part of the overall capital plan and amounts to about which $19.6 million for 2022.

Larger infrastructure projects for next year include the estimates for both the Aurora and Solon road reconstructions, with the projects mostly funded through income tax collections.

Mr. Rubino said typical capital projects involve such things as the replacement of vehicles and building improvements, among others.

The city has a general fund operating budget of $41.4 million projected for next year.

For 2022, the city may also look at allocating some of the second round of American Rescue Plan funding through the federal government toward capital projects.

The city received $1.193 million recently, representing its first installment of American Rescue Plan Act funding through the federal government and will receive the same amount next year, for a total of just under $2.4 million.

The funding is part of the overall plan, also known as the COVID-19 Stimulus Package, amounting to $1.9 trillion. A total of $350 billion from the American Rescue Plan is devoted to local government funding.

“This is a very good capital budget on top of our operating budget,” Mayor Kraus said, adding that the capital plan is a five-year outlook.

“You can’t do everything in one year,” he said. “It takes a long time.”

Other future capital plans include an amphitheater at the Community Park as well as components of a Solon Connects plan, which provides mobility throughout the community.

Councilwoman Nancy E. Meany said of the allotment of $1.5 million for concrete street repairs for 2022 compared to $2.5 million this year that she wants to make sure the city continues to allocate enough dollars in this area.

“I would like to keep it the same,” she said of the $2.5 million allotment this year. “It’s an important thing for our residents.”

She said one of the main issues and complaints brought up by residents is the condition of their roads.

“This is what our residents expect,” she said of annual repairs and improvements. “This is the reality.”

Councilman Jeremy A. Zelwin said of the Aurora Road reconstruction to begin next year and budgeted at $7 million that he does not want to see that amount increase. The project should be put out for bidding as soon as possible, he said.

Public works Director William Drsek said the only way it would increase is if something “crazy” happens with fuel prices.

“That will drive it,” he said, adding that the project cannot be bid out until April as there are still property acquisitions that need to be obtained.

Mr. Rubino also gave an overview for the potential of the city to pursue debt financing for the Community Development projects. This could come in the form of a loan or most likely bonds, he said.

It has been a long time since the city pursued this type of financing, Mr. Rubino added, with one of the most recent being the construction of the Community Center.

“We would pursue this type of funding because those community development projects are large in scope and cost,” Mr. Rubino explained, “and we don’t have that money up front to be available for those types of projects, such as the trails projects.”

City Council approval of the budget is expected by late December, with the 2022 budget effective Jan. 1.

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