Council ends Farmville Riverwalk project

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, February 21, 2024

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It’s time to shut down the Farmville Riverwalk project. That was the unanimous decision made by the town council on Wednesday, Feb. 14, after having a week to go through the financial numbers given by Farmville Town Manager Dr. Scott Davis. 

In the council’s earlier work session, Davis had warned the cost was climbing for Phase One of the project. To be clear, that’s the only portion that the town is committed to, a trail for pedestrians and bikers that creates a walkable path from High Bridge Trail down to Riverside Park near Main Street. As of now, it’s estimated Phase One would be $408,603 more than has been allotted. What’s allotted is a $1.074 million grant and the town’s 20% match of $214,934. 

Speaking to the board on Feb. 14, Davis also pointed out that if the first phase is already over budget, that doesn’t bode well for the future. 

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“If the current phase we’re in is already over what it was projected, I’m sure the future ones that will be in will be over that projection as well,” Davis said. 

As a result, the council had three choices. Option One: Farmville pays that $408,603 out of pocket. Option Two: the town applies for an additional grant to cover that money. But that extra grant would also require another 20% match, so the town would then be on the hook for an additional $81,721. And if Farmville moves forward and doesn’t get the grant, for whatever reason, then the town would be on the hook for the full $408,603. And then there’s Option Three. That would involve cutting the town’s losses, backing out now before any of the construction work is started. 

The council chose Option Three. 

Cut our losses

“I’ll just make a motion to get out of this and just cut our losses,” said council member Sallie Amos. 

After hearing about the increase and potential for more, Amos and other council members were just ready to move on. 

Part of that increase in the Riverwalk proposal comes from a need for additional analysis, to make the path usable as it is in the floodplain. Also, due to the historic nature of the area, there are some extra environmental and archeological studies that need to be done. And then there are the utility problems. Basically, some of the utility lines, connecting things like power and internet, might have to be relocated. 

Another concern for town council members was that Phase One is by far the cheapest of the three phases involved. Phase II would be a raised boardwalk area, going over some wetlands and ending at Building 8 of Greenfront Furniture. That would cost $3.568 million based on today’s estimates and go into construction in 2030. The third phase would go along the river, behind Charley’s Waterfront, behind the tasting room and eventually connect with the High Bridge Trail. That could end up being more than $3 million as well, meaning by the end, this project could be a $8 million to $9 million walkway. 

Council member Adam Yoelin asked if the numbers included potential inflation in the years to come and the answer he was given was no. 

Final verdict for Farmville Riverwalk

In the end, by a unanimous vote, the council agreed to stop all work on the Farmville Riverwalk project. They acknowledged that the town could be out a total of $24,000, but that it was better than the alternative.