County working to acquire rights of way to finish trail

JOHNSTOWN – Fulton County government this week took its first action toward acquiring private rights of way for an unfinished 3.5-mile stretch of the county Rail Trail in the towns of Johnstown and Mayfield.

The Board of Supervisors’ Buildings and Grounds-Highway Committee recently authorized County Attorney Jason Brott and Planning Director James Mraz to take steps to acquire rights of way for the remaining, undeveloped trail project. The full board must give final authorization Sept. 8.

“We have never formally tried to acquire these rights of way,” Mraz said Thursday. “We’ve [only] discussed it.”

Fulton County’s 2014 capital budget contains $50,000 dedicated to a Rail Trail project to acquire rights of way. Two trail sections have been completed for many years. They are: a 5.5-mile section from Union Avenue Extension in the city of Johnstown to Dennie’s Crossing in the town of Johnstown; and a 1.1-mile section from County Highway 155 in the town of Mayfield to Second Avenue in the village of Broadalbin.

A proposed 3.5-mile, 10-foot wide paved trail section between Dennie’s Crossing and County Highway 155 has remained incomplete for many years. In order to complete that section, private rights of way must be acquired.

Mraz said he and Brott had preliminary discussions July 25 on how to attempt to acquire the needed rights of way.

“He and I have discussed the process and the committee said great, go forward,” Mraz said.

Brott and Mraz will be hiring an appraiser and title company and will prepare proposed property sale agreements to present back to the Board of Supervisors for its review and approval.

Mraz reported to the Buildings and Grounds-Highway Committee that state Department of Transportation officials indicated if the county uses its own money to acquire the rights of way, it could do so at a significantly lower cost than a grant.

A package of information was sent to Brott, including a map and deeds of all of the rights of way needed to be acquired. Sought was an opinion on whether new property survey work will be needed or whether property descriptions in existing deeds are acceptable. Mraz said Brott indicated the property descriptions are adequate to acquire the existing rights of way.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.