Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hailey hustles to get $3.5M grant

Federal budget cuts had targeted similar appropriations


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

During a special meeting of the Hailey City Council on Thursday, April 7, city leaders rushed to pass a grant agreement with the federal government to secure $3.5 million for the redevelopment of Woodside Boulevard, despite lingering questions and doubts about the project among Hailey residents.

The $3.5 million, from a U.S. Department of Transportation Tiger 11 grant, will be added to $810,000 of city funds to build sidewalks, bike paths, a roundabout and a new surface for 2.5 miles of Woodside Boulevard between Fox Acres Road and state Highway 75.

"We need to sign this while we still can," said City Administrator Heather Dawson.

In an interview, Dawson said an appropriations bill before Congress last week proposed eliminating grants similar to the one that would be used to rebuild Woodside Boulevard.

She told the council that an as-yet-unfunded $450,000 for the project could be paid with local-option-tax funds over the next three years.

The Hailey Community Development Department had planned to spend the entire summer working out the details of the Woodside Boulevard project, including addressing landowner concerns about a traffic roundabout at Fox Acres Road, the location of sidewalks and the width of landscaping buffers.

Thursday's meeting concluded with a vote by the council to approve the grant and all structural components of the project. The city now has 90 days to finalize the design and meet individual needs of residents. If the city is not pleased with the project plans within three months, city leaders can still pull the plug on it.

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About 15 Woodside residents attended the special meeting Thursday, despite the short, two-day notice.

They expressed disappointment at having to rush deliberations over the details of the project, including construction of a roundabout, the elimination of on-street parking and the lack of small enough bid packages on the work to include local contractors.

Woodside Boulevard resident Matt Spence said that if the sidewalks are built, he will no longer be able to park in his driveway and will lose needed on-street parking.

"Woodside Boulevard was designed with on-street parking," he said. "Now that will go away except for a few spots."

"We are not happy with this process, but it is what it is," said Councilman Fritz Haemmerle. "I am becoming less and less of a fan of the grant process. They (the federal government) take away our autonomy to fund and plan things."

Councilman Don Keirn agreed that having to move forward with haste was problematic, but said he considered the grant worthwhile. He said the $3.5 million presented a "golden opportunity" for Hailey.

"Otherwise Woodside Boulevard will be a ruin in five years," Keirn said.

Councilwoman Carol Brown said she felt the city was "backed into a corner," but expressed support for the grant agreement anyway.

"Maintaining infrastructure in this city is extremely important," she said.

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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