By Michael Howell
At its meeting on April 17, the Hamilton City Council, following a public hearing on the matter, approved a Community Transportation Enhancement Program (CTEP) grant application for a pedestrian/bicycle shared use path on Fairgrounds Road, Phase I. Phase I is along the south side of Fairgrounds Road from Daly Avenue to Kurtz Lane by Hamilton High School.
According to Special Projects Coordinator Dennis Stranger, the entire plan calls for pathways on both sides of Fairgrounds Road from Highway 93 to the Eastside Highway and is estimated to cost $2.7 million. The project has been split into phases for a number of reasons. The cost of Phase I is estimated at $345,000.
The City has asked Ravalli County to contribute $201,473 to the pathway construction that borders the county’s property. A portion of the county fairgrounds is located within the city limits. In a recent letter to the County, Mayor Steele notes that when the City issued the County some Conditional Use Permits for the construction of an entry gate, ticket booths, law enforcement structures, and the First Interstate Center in 2003 and 2005, the county agreed to transfer to the City an amount equal to one year’s worth of the County’s CTEP funds for sidewalks and other street improvements along Fairgrounds Road.
Mayor Steele claims that the agreement was amended in 2005, when the County provided the City with $15,526.70 for construction of a bridge across the Republican Ditch. Steele calculates that, given that the County’s last annual CTEP allocation totaled $217,000, if you subtract the cost of the bridge, the County would still owe the city $201,473.30. He asks that the money be transferred by October 1, 2012.
According to Stranger, the City has about $100,000 in its own CTEP account and about $140,000 to $150,000 in its Impact Fee account which could also be used on the improvement project.
City resident Les Rutledge raised a few questions. He wondered why the project was on the south side of the road when the pedestrian traffic was mostly on the north side. He said that the amount and speed of the traffic made it very dangerous to cross the street. He also questioned why only half the pathway on the south side was being developed.
Mayor Steele said that the work, in this initial phase, was being done on the south side because the City had a clear right of way there, unlike on the north side. He said an asphalt path was also going to be constructed from Providence Way to Stonegate Drive. He said a crossing, perhaps with a flashing light, was also planned. He said it was budgetary considerations driving these decisions.
Rutledge said that the city can’t put cost before public safety and that piecemeal construction was not the answer.
“If we need more money we should go and get it,” he said.
Steele noted that when the actual road improvements were done the pathway would be completed.
Councilor Joe Petrusaitis said, “I’ve always thought that any sidewalk is better than no sidewalk.”
The Council unanimously approved making the grant application.
The Council also:
• Unanimously approved on second reading an ordinance redistricting ward boundaries.
• Unanimously approved a resolution revising the original application and permission for listed employees of the City of Hamilton to possess First Interstate Bank business cards for payment of expenditures incurred on behalf of the City of Hamilton. Instead of issuing the cards by name they would now be issued by position titles. Guidelines for making donations and contributions were also added.
• Reappointed Chris Cloft and Vivian Yang to the Zoning Commission and reappointed Jim Whitlock to the Police Commission.