Friday, August 10, 2012

Ketchum CDC makes pitch for signs

Up to $196,000 requested for ‘walkability’ in core


By BRENNAN REGO
Express Staff Writer

Dale Bates, project manager for the Ketchum Community Development Corp.’s Walkable Ketchum Project, speaks to the Ketchum City Council Monday. Photo by Willy Cook

Staff of the Walkable Ketchum Project on Monday requested up to $196,000 from the Ketchum City Council for way-finding signs to make city more foot-traffic friendly.

The goal of the Ketchum Community Development Corp.-initiated project is to make Ketchum easier to navigate—for both drivers and pedestrians—and to get people out of their cars and into shops and restaurants where they'll be more likely to spend money.

The funding request was separated into three "levels," with the higher levels representing a larger financial commitment.

The first level, which would cost $61,545, would provide the "minimum threshold of effectiveness," Project Manager Dale Bates told the council.

The second level, which would cost $94,545, would include everything proposed for Level 1 plus a few extras. Bates said it would provide "optimal effectiveness," and could be completed by July 2013. The cost of Level 2 falls within Ketchum's earmarked $100,000 for the project.

Level 3 would cost $196,000 and would include everything proposed for levels 1 and 2 plus even more extras. It would be a "complete way-finding system, given the current sidewalk and streetlight conditions," Bates said. "Level 3 would provide new signage for the entire downtown core and all main entry corridors."

Bates told the council that the city would not necessarily have to pay for Level 3 right away. Instead, it could be "phased in" over the years.

Additionally, Bates said that he and his team could look into securing private donations to pay for some of the signs. This would free up funds that could then be used to eventually reach the higher levels.

"Donors could have their names engraved on the signs they buy," Bates said.

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Councilman Michael David asked Bates why his funding request focuses more on way-finding in particular than on "walkability" in a broader sense. Originally, Bates wanted to make Ketchum more "walkable" by not only investing in less-confusing way-finding signs, but also by investing in sidewalk repair, more frequent snowplowing, and more streetlights.

"Is there a plan to look at the condition of the sidewalks and streetlights?" David said.

Bates said that funding streetlight purchases and sidewalk repair was prohibitively expensive, at least this early in the project's development.

"In order to ensure at least two streetlights per intersection, which would be ideal, it would cost another $200,000," Bates said. "If you're just going to buy one or two streetlights at $7,000 a pop, that money could be spent elsewhere with more noticeable results."

Councilwoman Nina Jones expressed concern that the proposed signs might make Ketchum appear like a theme park.

"I don't want it to look too much like Disneyland, but I agree that we need a certain level of a cohesive town core," she said.

Bates agreed that too many signs would be counterproductive to the project's goal of increasing way-finding clarity.

"We don't want a sign pointing you to somewhere else everywhere you go," he said.

Councilman Jim Slanetz said, "To me, it's a bit of an experiment. Maybe we should phase it in with some flexibility, see what works and what doesn't."

The council is expected to make a decision later this month as to whether the city will fund the project and, if so, which of Bates' three levels it will commit to.

Brennan Rego: brego@mtexpress.com




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