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Bike, trail proposals take U-turn

Two proposals aimed at connecting residents to the outdoors were discussed Thursday by the Superior Finance Committee, but neither will move forward to tonight's common council meeting.

The Parks and Recreation Commission went on record in support of the implementation of a Zagster bike share program in Superior at its June meeting. The two-year project, expected to cost $72,000, was brought before the Finance Committee with a request for funding through surplus hotel/motel tax dollars. Additional revenue could be generated by sponsorships, the committee was told.

A separate proposal to use those same money for a year-round cross-city trail was brought forward by Councilors Brent Fennessesy and Craig Sutherland. Their plan aims to upgrade the cross town trail segment, currently only usable by snowmobiles during the winter, for year-round use by bikers and hikers.

The move would connect the city's Millennium Trail in the municipal forest to the Osaugie Trail along the waterfront. A video detailing the area and proposal was posted July 9 on Facebook and generated buzz online, Sutherland said, much of it positive.

Fennessey shelved the cross town trail proposal at Thursday's meeting. It would be better to tackle the possibility after the city's comprehensive plan is complete, he said.

City funding was not recommended for the bike program. If it moves forward, committee members agreed, it would have to be 100 percent sponsor-funded.

That left open the question of what to do with about $102,000 in surplus hotel/motel tax money.

"I don't think we should have a surplus," Fennessey said.

The city receives about $85,000 a year in hotel/motel tax money, Finance Director Jean Vito told the committee. In the past, hotel/motel funds were allocated to the Superior Amateur Hockey Association, Fourth of July fireworks, Superior Days travel, Ami-Machi Sister City activities, police overtime during the Lake Superior Dragon Boat Festival, "Positively Superior" magazine, the Lake Superior Ice Festival and smaller promotional items and special events such as Billings Park and South End days.

Anything not spent, said Mayor Jim Paine, is put into the surplus account. The $102,000 available has built up over the past eight to 10 years, according to Assistant Finance Director Chris Bronson.

Finance Committee Chairman Jack Sweeney said the hotel/motel funding is scattered in all directions. There's no written plan for how or where to spend it.

"Right now this account's the wild, wild west," said Councilor Keith Kern.

"We need to do something with this money," Sweeney said.

Finance Committee members proposed creating guidelines for disbursing the money and tasked Paine with creating an events committee to make decisions on how to spend the revenue.

A committee would ensure that current allocations are the best use for the funds.

"It also acknowledges we have more money than we have been allocating, so there is room for new organizations," Paine said. "There's room for a trail or a Zagster or a Wisconsin Point, for new ideas."