Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Ketchum applies for $350K grant

Money sought to improve sidewalks, add streetlights

Express Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of Dale Bates An Inovus solar-powered streetlight recharges its batteries during daylight hours at Ketchum Town Square. For safety reasons, the city would prefer to have two streetlights at every intersection in the downtown core. This would require purchasing 32 more of the $8,000 streetlights.

The city of Ketchum is partnering with the Ketchum Community Development Corp. to apply for a grant of up to $350,000 to improve sidewalks and add streetlights downtown.

The application is for an Idaho Community Development Block Grant. The funds are controlled and distributed through the Idaho Department of Commerce, though the money originally comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The grants are awarded to counties or municipalities to improve public facilities, build senior or community centers, protect against imminent threats or promote economic development.

If the grant is awarded, the city would use it to help fund the Ketchum Community Development Corp.’s Walkable Ketchum project, which aims to make the city more pedestrian-friendly by incorporating wayfinding signs, repairing sidewalks and installing more streetlights. In August, the city approved $100,000 for the Walkable Ketchum project; however that was only enough to cover the signage.

“The city didn’t have money for sidewalks and streetlights,” Walkable Ketchum Project Manager Dale Bates said at a City Council meeting Monday, Nov. 5. “That’s why we’re going for this grant.”

At the meeting, Bates said the Walkable Ketchum project’s goal is to fix about a half-mile of sidewalks in the city, though in reality about 1.5 miles could use some work.

“There are many areas, such as Seventh Street and Washington Avenue, with lots of missing sidewalks,” he said. “This forces people to cross the street and bounce back and forth between sidewalks. It’s critical to keep people from walking around in the middle of the street.”

Bates also said that for safety it is important to have at least two streetlights per intersection.

“Two diagonal streetlights is much safer than one light, which leaves three directions blind because our night vision doesn’t compensate well between the light and dark sections,” he said. “One light might be less safe than none.”

A recent Walkable Ketchum project report to the City Council calls for 32 new, solar-powered streetlights to achieve this goal. Each streetlight costs $8,000, compared to $15,000 to $20,000 for conventional, non-solar models, for a total of $256,000. According to the report, the sidewalk repairs would cost about $40 per foot, plus additional expenses such as traffic control and landscape repair. An estimated total for sidewalk work comes to $180,000. The combined construction total would be about $436,000.

The grant has a $350,000 maximum, not including a grant administration fee. The grant application guidelines require applicants to hire a grant administrator to help them properly prepare the application. Ketchum has appointed Jeffrey McCurdy, Region IV Development Agency’s community development planner, as its grant administrator for this project. Region IV Development Agency is a Twin Falls-based, not-for-profit corporation that encourages development and economic diversification in south-central Idaho.

McCurdy said at the meeting that he will charge Ketchum $40,000 for his services, but only if the grant is awarded to the city. McCurdy also said that the grant program is “extremely competitive,” with the grant awards usually going to the community with the greatest need and the greatest level of financial participation. In order to compete for the grant, Ketchum must be willing to match some of the money.

Ketchum and the Ketchum Community Development Corp. have committed a combined total of about $126,000 as a community participation match for the project. If the net $310,000 from the grant is awarded, the total should be enough to pay for the proposed improvements.

The grant application is due Friday. According to the staff report, the city won’t know until late April or May whether it will receive the money.

Brennan Rego:

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