Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Ketchum delays ‘walkability’ plan

Council approves contract for streetlights, not signs


By BRENNAN REGO
Express Staff Writer

These signs show one of the proposed designs put before the Ketchum City Council. Courtesy graphic

    The Ketchum City Council has delayed approval of the lion’s share of a $111,500 contract that would allow the Ketchum Community Development Corp. to break ground on its “Walkable Ketchum” project. However, representatives of the project remain hopeful that the council will soon approve the contract in full and that the project will still be completed on schedule, by July 4.
    The council has allocated about $170,000 for the project’s development, which aims to make the city more pedestrian-friendly by installing several wayfinding signs and nine solar-powered streetlights around the city’s downtown core, among other proposed improvements. KCDC representatives first presented the idea to the Ketchum City Council in March 2012. The council approved the project in August, appropriating $100,000 from the city’s General Fund for the signs and earmarking $70,000 from the city’s Underground Fund for the streetlights.
    However, comments voiced by Ketchum developer Jack Bariteau at a special council meeting on Wednesday, April 24, caused the council to take a step back and reconsider how the project should be developed. Bariteau said some of the project’s proposed designs for signs and intersection markings were “chaotic” and might not accomplish the intended wayfinding effect.
“I’m not opposed to what Dale and his committee are doing,” he said, referring to Dale Bates, the project’s manager. “This walkability thing is very important. I hate to see us make this investment and not have it serve the purpose you want it to serve.”
    Instead of approving the KCDC’s request to hire Ketchum-based Conrad Construction to begin work on the project, the council voted 3-0 to request that Bates discuss the project with Jeff Speck, a nationally recognized authority on walkability and author of “Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time,” before the council would approve the contract. Councilwoman Nina Jonas was not present at the meeting.
    “For this kind of money, we want to make sure we get it right,” Mayor Randy Hall said.
    The idea to reach out to Speck for advice on the project was proposed at the meeting by Ketchum resident Aimée Christensen, founder and CEO of Ketchum-based Christensen Global Strategies, in response to a suggestion by Bariteau to get input on the project from an expert. Christensen said that she’d recently heard Speck speak and suggested having him review the plan. She even offered to “set it up.”
    Bates agreed to discuss the project with Speck. In an interview after the meeting, he said that he would talk with Speck this week and that he expects the council will approve the contract soon after, still in time to complete the project by July 4.
    The council did approve the streetlight part of the project, including—to install them—an about $16,800 portion of the Conrad Construction contract. The streetlights—which are slated to be installed at various intersections downtown—cost about $51,100 to buy.


Brennan Rego: brego@mtexpress.com




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