Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Woodside street project still alive

City leaders say plan is contingent on acceptable construction bid

Express Staff Writer

A scaled-back plan for rebuilding Woodside Boulevard will likely proceed next summer, but the project could ultimately lead to a bond levy and tax increase to replenish the city of Hailey's capital fund.

If the city does not proceed with the new plan, it risks losing $916,000 in engineering costs already spent on the proposed project, as well as a $3.5 million federal grant to complete it.

The revised plan for a $5.7 million project could deplete the city's capital fund to $600,000, cutting it too close for comfort for some council members who have grown wary of cost overruns.

About $1.9 million of the project would be spent on engineering, inspections and city staff time, leaving about $3.8 million in construction costs.

"If the [construction] bids don't come in at $3.8 million or less, it's dead," said council President and Mayor-elect Fritz Haemmerle.

Haemmerle has complained about more than $300,000 in JUB Engineering cost overruns, $64,000 of which the city is still wondering why it needs to pay.

A $3.5 million federal TIGER II grant was awarded to the city in May to rebuild Woodside Boulevard. The grant required that the city provide adequate matching funds to rebuild 2.5 miles of roadway and build sidewalks and bike paths on both sides of the road.

Original plans also called for several bus shelters, a roundabout at the intersection of Fox Acres Road and a traffic light on the corner of Woodside Boulevard and state Highway 75.

The overall cost of the project came in on July 27, following construction bids, at nearly $6.8 million, about $2.3 million more than the $4.5 million that the city had expected, but by then the city had invested $916,000 in capital funds in the project.

The Hailey Streets Department has warned the City Council that due to a lack of routine maintenance, the surface of Woodside Boulevard needs to be completely rebuilt at a cost of at least $1.5 million within two years.

Public Works Director Tom Hellen said he negotiated with the Federal Highways Administration to see just how little the city could do, and spend from its capital fund, and still receive $3.5 million in reimbursements for the construction costs.

Hellen presented the scaled-down plans to the City Council on Monday. They call for a reduction in sidewalk widths, a reduced number of bus turnouts, reducing the amount of asphalt needed, and other cost-saving changes.

Under the revised, $5.7 million plan, the city would spend $2.2 million, if construction bids come in low enough to proceed at all.

The council could agree to put the project out to bid in January, following a public hearing on the issue Monday, Nov. 21, at 5 p.m.

City Administrator Heather Dawson proposed passing an "interfund-lending" resolution to provide sufficient funding in the capital fund to cover day-to-day expenses for the project. She said money from the Water Replacement Fund could be used to cover the costs until the federal government reimburses the city under the grant guidelines.

Dawson said $2.5 million in capital funds that the city expected to receive from Old Cutters subdivision developer John Campbell should not be expected since the developer recently filed for bankruptcy. She said the city could go to voters to pass a bond to re-capitalize the capital fund in perpetuity.

"Right now, we have no other means to replenish the capital improvement fund," she said.

In other Hailey news:

( The City Council voted unanimously to "graciously return" $500,000 in grant funding to the Idaho Department of Commerce that would have been used for a $1.2 million River Street upgrade.

Tony Evans:

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