A couple of months ago, the busiest stoplight in Sun Valley went out. Now, leaders are considering making the temporary fix of a stop sign a permanent one.
“The feedback we have gotten on the [blinking] stoplight has been great,” Mayor Peter Hendricks said.
The city is conducting a feasibility study to determine which of three options is best for the intersection of Sun Valley and Saddle roads: keep the stop signs, go back to an overhead stoplight, or convert the intersection to a roundabout. That study will be completed in the coming months, though any changes won’t be made until the snow melts in the spring.
Councilman Keith Saks proposed that the blinking red overhead light remain, even if permanent stop signs are installed.
“Do we put in pedestrian crosswalks, do we look at flags, do we have stop signs that have blinking red lights on them?” he asked.
The cost of the stop signs is a lot less than the other two options, followed by stop lights, then constructing a roundabout, according to Hendricks. Exact costs were not specified.
In December, Sun Valley Street Superintendent Bill Whitesell explained what went wrong.
“There is a magnetic loop that [powers the light] embedded in the asphalt,” he said in an interview. “That loop has a fault in it somewhere, and it wasn’t working correctly, so we just decided to change it to just flashing red.”
City Council turns attention to vehicle fleet
Another urgent issue addressed as part of a larger presentation on capital improvements in Sun Valley is the city’s snowplow stock.
Going into this winter, Sun Valley had two Oshkosh brand snowplows, both about 25 years old. One has a broken axle, which can’t be replaced until this summer.
“So that one is pretty much completely out of commission right now,” City Finance Manager Kelly Rockwood said. “We’re using our one good Oshkosh and our backup, which is our sanding truck.”
Rockwood said it will take at least two years to order a new snow plow, more for an Oshkosh because the city is interested only in a specific model that can turn each wheel individually. Rockwood said that’s necessary due to the community’s deep snow accumulation and many hills, tight corners and cul-de-sacs.
“If we go with a less expensive snowplow, let’s say a Mack—in addition to the cost of the snowplow, it will cost about $150,000 each to outfit them with the different snowblades and equipment,” Rockwood said. “But we could buy three of those for the price of two Oshkoshes. If we do that, we will eliminate a lot of complaints about plowing because we’ll have three to use at once.”
The council agreed that buying the less expensive models that will arrive sooner is the way to go.
“What are we waiting for?” Saks asked. Griffith agreed, saying the city should pursue the less expensive route. Rockwood estimated the cost to be about $1.2 million to $1.5 million. The Streets Department has about $2.2 million budgeted in fiscal 2023 for a snow plow and other small projects.
The city needs a new police cruiser, too, but Mayor Hendricks requested that city staff try to find a way to stretch that request until next year.
Street employees, fire station among spending options
Also on the immediate to-do list is hiring a fourth permanent street employee. The department has had three employees, as well as a seasonal temporary employee in the winter, for 16 years.
Councilman Brad DuFur advocated for prioritizing building a new fire station sooner rather than later- though land for the station has not been acquired yet.
“We have $6 million [budgeted for the fire station] in here now, and I don’t know what the number is going to be [down the road], but the costs have gone up [since then],” he said. “I know that Ketchum’s needs are different from ours, but theirs cost about $11 million, so I think it’s probably going to cost us more than $6 million.”
He added that this is a high priority item for him.
City staff noted that the station will be funded at least in part through impact fees, which the city started collecting in April. How much of the total cost will be from impact fees is unknown at this point, according to City Clerk Nancy Flannigan. About $320,000 has been collected so far.
Also on the docket for 2023 is a continued project with Ketchum to repave Sun Valley Road. Over the summer, Ketchum contractors reconstructed Sun Valley Road from Main Street to Spruce Street, and Sun Valley contractors resurfaced the road from Festival Meadow to the city limits, past the Sun Valley Gun Club. This year, the project will stretch from Spruce Avenue to Festival Meadow. Hendricks described the complexities of this project.
“There is a water line involved, there is an Idaho Power project involved, there is a part of the intersection that is done by Ketchum,” he said. “The total cost is going to be $6.9 million or so. Our portion is going to be $3.8 million.”
The council also discussed teaming up with Ketchum to help boost the affordable housing project planned for the First and Washington lot, which is owned by the Ketchum Urban Renewal Agency.
“I’m sure they would love partners in that,” Hendricks said.
The city has about $13 million to spend during fiscal 2023, $2 million of which is used to keep the city operating on a daily basis. That leaves $11 million for these projects, according to Rockwood.
The final project discussed by the council was one that Mayor Hendricks said has “probably had $99,000 budgeted for it for the last 40 years,” which drew laughs from the rest of the room: repairs to City Hall.
“We need repainting, recarpeting and new lights,” he said. Later on, he added it will likely be pushed back once again. ￼
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The blinker works well when traffic counts are low. As traffic builds, the efficiencies of a stop light grow. The roundabout would be the most esthetic approach and would work well, but the cost is very high. Seems like biggest bang for buck is to keep the stop light, use it as a flasher during light traffic periods and use it as a stop light during heaving traffic periods.
Welcome to the discussion.