Friday, March 4, 2005

Ketchum eyes major public works projects

City's six-year plan includes installing sidewalks and building new city hall

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum city officials this week formally proposed a major capital improvements plan that calls for spending approximately $40 million over the next six years on projects that include installing new sidewalks in the downtown core and building a new $12 million city hall.

At a special joint meeting between the Ketchum City Council and the city Planning and Zoning Commission Wednesday, March 2, City Administrator Ron LeBlanc asked the two boards to consider approving and implementing the plan before the end of the year.

The proposed plan, which would be conducted in phases from fiscal year 2005-2006 through fiscal year 2010-2011, includes a vast array of public-works projects throughout the city but concentrated mostly in the downtown core.

The highest priority project put forth Wednesday is a four-phase plan to install approximately 10,000 linear feet of new sidewalks and 155 new streetlights in central Ketchum, along with burying power lines in the area.

LeBlanc and Mayor Ed Simon both said they are eager to implement the plan but suggested that months of review will be necessary to fine tune certain aspects and determine exactly how all the projects will be paid for. The city has established a capital-improvements fund but has only about $100,000 in the reserve account.

LeBlanc said the city plans to fund the different projects through a combination of sources, including grants, general-obligation bonds, local-option tax funds, Idaho Power franchise-tax funds, local improvement districts and a set of proposed development-impact fees.

"We're trying to get this done within the current tax structure," LeBlanc said.

The plan calls for conducting several small projects this year to prepare for larger projects in the six years to follow. Highlights of the plan include:

· Using a $1.14 million federal grant to build a new transit center and to develop parking at the city-owned Park and Ride lot, north of downtown (2006).

· Using a $2.5 million state Department of Environmental Quality loan to replace all old water lines associated with the Ketchum Spring Water System (2006 to 2011).

· Building a new city hall, at an estimated cost of $12 million, on the site of the existing Ketchum City Hall on East Avenue. The project, slated for fiscal year 2006-2007, would be funded through a general-obligation bond that would have to be approved by Ketchum citizens.

· Using a federal matching grant to install a sidewalk on the west side of Warm Springs Road between Sixth Street and Tenth Street (fiscal year 2006-2007).

· Developing a "gateway" entrance to the city at the intersection of state Highway 75 and Serenade Lane, using $1.14 million in bond revenues (fiscal year 2007-2008).

· Using bond revenues to conduct approximately $560,000 in improvements at Atkinson Park, build a $440,000 bicycle and pedestrian corridor along Fifth Street and complete a $350,000 reconstruction of Fifth Street (fiscal year 2008-2009).

· Using approximately $5.9 million in bond revenues to acquire land to develop parking on the periphery of downtown and to build a public parking garage (fiscal year 2010-2011).

LeBlanc said the city might choose to seek approval for two separate bond issues, one to pay for the new city hall and another to pay for a new visitor center, public restrooms and improvements to Fifth Street.

The most immediate of the major projects is a phased plan to conduct $6.3 million in streetscape improvements throughout the central part of the city.

Tentatively slated to start in 2006, the project calls for burying power lines, installing new sidewalks with curbs and gutters, and resurfacing selected streets and crosswalk areas.

The work would be done in four phases, with each phase focusing on a designated quadrant of the city center. The city would pay for burying power lines and installing streetlights, while the costs of installing sidewalks would be shared with property owners through the formation of local improvement districts.

The city's costs would be paid for with its 3 percent franchise tax on Idaho Power bills, proposed development-impact fees, existing and future capital-reserve funds derived from local option taxes, and proposed general-obligation bond revenues.

Carol Waller, executive director of the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau, urged the council to move quickly on the streetscape improvements.

"Let's get this going and make this town the best that we can make it," Waller said.

The plan and a related proposal to assess development-impact fees will be sent through the P&Z for review before LeBlanc asks the City Council to approve them.

LeBlanc said he intends to have the plan approved by June, before the council starts outlining the 2005-2006 city budget.

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