Mountain biking at the park?

Snow falls on Phillips Farm Park on Monday afternoon north of Moscow.

The Moscow Area Mountain Bike Association and Latah County Parks and Recreation are asking the city of Moscow for permission to construct a mountain bike trail at Virgil Phillips Farm Park north of Moscow.

Moscow Parks and Recreation Director Dwight Curtis told the Moscow City Council Administrative Committee Monday that the proposed bicycle path would be suitable for beginner mountain bike riders to gain skill and confidence while learning about trail etiquette and responsible trail use among other benefits.

“It’s easily accessible, it’s multiuse, it’s located in a relatively unused portion of the park, low impact and it’s no cost to the city,” Curtis said.

The park is about 6 miles north of Moscow along U.S. Highway 95. It is owned by the city of Moscow and managed by Latah County.

The proposed trail would be about 1 mile long and meander through the northeast corner of the park, according to the Administrative Committee packet.

The packet said the trail would avoid proposed University of Idaho research units for ventenata, an invasive weed; be visible from the “upper gazebo,” allowing parents to observe children as they ride the trail; keep away from bluebird boxes on the ridge to the south and the foot trails to the west; maintain a gentle grade both up and downhill; and a small bridge would need to be built across a ditch at the southwestern-most section of the trail.

The Administrative Committee recommended approval of the trail and the full City Council will discuss the proposal at Monday’s regular council meeting.

The committee also discussed a proposed resolution intended to resolve landlord and tenant utility billing issues.

City codes state that property owners are ultimately responsible for utility bills and that the city is authorized to receive payment from either the property owner or tenant. However, courts determined that additional steps need to be taken by a municipality to make that code effective.

City Supervisor Gary Riedner said to enforce the provisions of Moscow City Code regarding utility billing responsibilities and to comply with a Supreme Court ruling, the city must have “privity of contract,” where the owner of the property requests the services and acknowledges the responsibilities and consequences for failure to pay regardless of whether the services are used by the owner or tenant.

Riedner said the city has billed tenants, when requested, for years.

“Billing the tenant has always been a costly proposition to the city,” Riedner said.

He said the average annual cost to the city for uncollected utility bills from mostly leased and rental properties is $10,250. Meanwhile, the cost of staff time spent dealing with issues relating to landlord and tenant utility billing, delinquent accounts, utility shut-off and collection efforts is about $31,000 per year. Riedner said this loss is spread across all Moscow utility users so it’s a “fairly big problem.”

Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.

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