Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Bellevue Council moves on Safe Routes

Money will be borrowed from city’s Water Fund

In a city strapped for cash, the water fund may soon provide some relief.

The Bellevue City Council made plans Thursday to borrow $140,000 from the city water fund to get started on the long-awaited Safe Routes to Schools sidewalk construction from Main Street to Bellevue Elementary School.

City Administrator Tom Blanchard said he hopes construction on the sidewalks will begin in July and be finished in two weeks, at which point the Idaho Transportation Department will reimburse the city "probably within four weeks."

The Safe Routes sidewalks will connect several parks within the city with a pedestrian and bicycle path. Funding was secured by a federal grant acquired by Mountain Rides, the county's public transportation agency.

The city has already invested $20,000 in engineering fees, as well as numerous council and citizens committee hours to plan the project.

Blanchard said all of that would be lost if the city cannot find the money to get started on the project by July 1, the expiration date for obtaining the grant.

Blanchard also suggested using the water fund to pay city employee salaries.

"This is a critically important issue right now because everyone is working hard for less," he said. "The water fund is an incredibly important tool for managing the city."

Councilman Chris Koch advised against using the water fund too readily, and leaving the city exposed to lack of funds in the case of an emergency.

"I worry about using it more than we have to," he said.

Blanchard said that after loaning the $140,000 for the sidewalks, the water fund would still have a balance of $817,000.

"This is more than enough to make payroll and provide bridge loans for grants," he said.

Tony Evans:

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