Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Fourth Street project still on schedule

Bike path to be moved this summer

Express Staff Writer

Construction of the Fourth Street Heritage Corridor in Ketchum is on-schedule but not completely without snags.

For one, area business owners are unhappy about reduced commerce during an already slow season. In addition, a snag with the proposed sidewalk heating system became evident at a Ketchum City Council meeting on Monday, May 7.

In order to install a system capable of using ground-source heat, as anticipated, the city would have to double the amount of tubing being installed beneath sidewalks.

"At first it seemed very simple: a little extra tube, a little extra labor," said Dale Bates, the Ketchum Community Development Corporation Town Design Committee chairman. "The tubing and labor cost alone is about $45,000 for the two blocks" under construction.

That would mean roughly a $170,000 difference in cost for the entire Fourth Street corridor, which is not anticipated to be completed until 2009.

The City Council was angry about the last-minute request for such a vast departure from the planned budget. The first phase is projected to cost $900,000, and the entire project could run in the neighborhood of $4.5 million.

Councilman Steve Shafran asked Bates what the difference would be between installing the additional tubing and operating the system from ground-source heat or simply at a lower temperature that would be afforded by increased tubing.

The answer was not available.

"Just for the record, I am furious," Shafran said. "I can't believe you can't come up with that number. I guarantee you guys are going to regret this. The answer's no because you can't come up with the numbers."

Baird Gourlay said the council would like to see the numbers even though they weren't available in time to install increased tubing on the two blocks under construction.

"If it doesn't make sense (financially), we'd rather remove the snow," he said. "So we need those numbers as well as what it costs to remove snow on those two blocks."

The City Council also agreed Monday to move the Sun Valley Road bike path to Fourth Street this summer, and that move will entail turning parking along parts of the corridor not yet renovated into parallel stalls.

"This is something the police department's really interested in," said Ketchum Police Sgt. Dave Kassner. "What this does is take families who are using those (Sun Valley Road bike lanes) and forcing those families into traffic (at the Main Street intersection). It's just a totally unsafe situation."

Councilman Ron Parsons stressed that the move will open up parking in a part of downtown where business owners have expressed concern about lost parking on Fourth Street.

"I think there's a notion that there's parking lost by doing this, but (that argument's) just not there," Parsons said.

It is, however, an ongoing concern for area merchants. Lanette Higley owns Lanett'e Salon on the lower level of Giacobbi Square, and she said merchants want to see people leaving with shopping bags, something they're not going to do on bicycles.

"The parking is a big issue," Higley said. "I'm listening to what my clients are saying, and they're saying they want to park nearby. We really need to think about that parking as an issue. Tourists are lost, and people who live here on a short-term basis are lost."

Deborah Burns, who owns Burnsie's Bocca, also said parking and business is a problem during this spring construction season.

"I'm having a parking problem," she said.

She asked the city to consider implementing two-hour parking on Walnut Avenue in front of the Community Library to assist with car turnover during the Fourth Street construction.

Ketchum City Administrator Ron LeBlanc stressed that the project is on schedule for a July 1 opening. He also said the pace of change—not just with Fourth Street but with issues like power line burial, water line replacement and potential hotel construction—is bound to elicit disquiet.

"This is not the same city it was five years ago," he said. "Things are moving. It's a good thing."

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