Funds Still Sought for Bibler Trail Project

By Beacon Staff

The Sam Bibler Commemorative Trail has broken ground on Willow Glen Drive, and the group backing it has collected 75 percent of the matching funds necessary to pay for the project.

Since the trail is being funded through the Community Transportation Enhancement Program (CTEP), the community is responsible for a percentage of matching dollars to access the money.

In this project’s case, the Sam Bibler Commemorative Trails Project group took on the responsibility to provide $73,000 in matching funds. Allen Sieler, one of the group’s leaders, said it has collected $53,000 so far.

A big chunk of that money – $10,000 – came from Flathead Electric Cooperative earlier this summer through the Roundup for Safety program, Sieler said.

According to Flathead County planner Alex Hogle, the matching funds must be in before the last bill is paid on the project. The contractor’s 45-day working window began on Aug. 23, and with an extra day added for plan changes, the deadline would be Oct. 7.

Days may be added if weather prevents construction crews from working. There may be some leeway with billing, Hogle said, but most likely only a couple weeks.

If the group cannot come up with the remaining $20,000, Flathead County is on the hook for the balance. When the Flathead County Commission voted to move forward with the project in May, the commissioners decided to award both sections of the project at the same time despite only having enough matching funds for one section.

Leaders from the trails group, however, said they were confident the remaining funds could be raised on time.

The first section of the trail currently under construction runs from FFA Drive north to Woodland Avenue, and the second section navigates roughly 700 linear feet of the hill and would tie into the Kalispell’s Woodland Connector Trail.

The project’s cost and scope has increased since last year, Sieler said, causing an increase for the needed matching funds as well. For example, when the county awarded the project to Apex Contracting, the county’s consulting engineers requested the commission increase its oversight hours from three hours a day to eight hours a day.

This would ensure all appropriate protocols are followed since this is Apex’s first time working on a CTEP project, the consultants said.

The commission agreed, and the increased hours added an additional $13,000 to the total project cost, bringing it to roughly $460,000. Even with the additional cost, the Apex’s bid still came in $30,000 below the second-lowest bid.

As an entire project, the local group envisions the Bibler Trail to have three sections – the first part, from Woodland Park to Dry Gulch, has been completed. The Willow Glen Drive section encompasses the second part of the project.

A third section is planned to connect at Dry Bridge Park with the first section of the trail, running below the hill along south Woodland Avenue to the bottom of Willow Glen Hill, according to the Sam Bibler Commemorative Trails Project.

If completed, the trail system would provide pedestrian and bicycle access to five schools and 10 parks and recreation sites.

The trails are being pursued to honor longtime Kalispell resident and benefactor Louis A. “Sam” Bibler.

Donations for the trails project can be mailed to The Sam Bibler Commemorative Trails Project, P.O. Box 515, Kalispell, 59903.

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