Friday, March 6, 2009

Ketchum submits requests for stimulus funds

Guyer Hot Springs, Fourth Street top city’s list


By JON DUVAL
Express Staff Writer

Charles Conn, Ketchum City Council

After compiling a list of nearly 20 projects with the potential to receive federal stimulus package funding last month, the city of Ketchum has narrowed its official proposal considerably.

Ketchum Community and Economic Development Director Lisa Horowitz reported Monday that the city had submitted its request for $11.1 million to fund five projects.

The proposed projects are development of Guyer Hot Springs as a geothermal heat source, completion of the Fourth Street Heritage Corridor, redevelopment of the parking lot in Town Plaza, development of a wastewater reuse system and continued operation of the city's Wi-Fi network.

The submittal estimates that the projects would create more than 200 design and construction jobs, and more than 20 long-term positions.

In January, Ketchum sent a "Ketchum Ready to Go" document to Idaho politicians, including U.S. Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo and U.S. Representatives Walt Minnick and Mike Simpson, as well as Tom Cochran, CEO of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The 17 projects totaled an estimated $105 million and carried a startling high job creation calculation for over 10,000 jobs.

At that time, Councilman Charles Conn suggested that with cities from all over the country looking for federal funding, it could be more advantageous to select only a few projects that could be completed quickly. As an example, he pointed out that the proposed widening of state Highway 75 from Elkhorn Road south to the Big Wood River bridge, with an estimated $55.5 million cost due to a need to purchase property, would take years before being ready for construction. In addition, construction of a new City Hall and Town Plaza was estimated at $25 million.

"This is an enormous wish list and every community will have one of these," Conn said at a City Council meeting Jan. 21. "Might it not be a better strategy to focus on two or three projects that have a good chance of success?"

The final proposed package reaches for five, but is still a fraction of the original list.

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At the top is an $8 million request to create a geothermal heat source from Guyer Hot Springs, which are at the end of Warm Springs Road and owned by the Cimino family.

The proposal is to collect and distribute geothermal water from the hot springs to nearby residences in Warm Springs and possibly beyond. The funding would go toward a master plan, construction of the infrastructure to pump and distribute hot water and return the water to its source. Once customers are connected to the system, rates would be set to cover maintenance, operation and replacement of the equipment.

The proposal states that the Cimino family has offered to cooperate with the city to develop the resource, and that if the project's approved, the city could break ground within nine months. The proposal estimates creation of 150 new jobs for construction and 15 long-term positions.

The second largest project proposed is completion of the Fourth Street Heritage Corridor, which already stretches from Walnut Avenue west across Main Street to Washington Avenue. The $2 million in stimulus funding would go to reconstructing the three remaining blocks on Fourth Street with wider sidewalks, benches, bike racks, outside dining areas and space for public artwork.

With the first two phases of the project completed, at a cost of $2.5 million, the third phase is projected to require 30 design and construction jobs, as well as one long-term job.

The third largest project is a system for reusing wastewater collected from Ketchum and Sun Valley, including construction of a contact basin, pump station and pipeline to a reuse area.

The submittal notes that the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality will limit the amount of wastewater discharge into the Big Wood River in the near future, and that this project will decrease the amount of discharge while providing an alternative for irrigation. That would decrease the demand for potable water during the summer and also allow the city to trade reuse water for water rights, as it did with the Weyyakin subdivision.

The $836,000 project would create an estimated 32 jobs.

For $250,000, the city is looking to reconstruct the parking lot in Town Plaza, which sits between the new visitor information center and Atkinsons' Market. The city would like to not only make the central parking lot more efficient for parking, but also improve it for special events such as the Farmers Market.

The project would include bike racks, new landscaping and sidewalks, and would create an estimated 10 jobs for design and construction, and one long-term job.

The final project in the package is $50,000 to maintain operation of the Ketchum Wi-Fi system, which was launched in 2007 through a grant from Allen & Co. and has a current monthly user base of about 1,200. The funding would be used to keep the network running and provide technical support, creating four short-term jobs and one long-term job.

There is no schedule yet for when the projects might be approved.

Jon Duval: jduval@mtexpress.com




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