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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Sidewalk project will begin this fall

By Jason Stuart

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

The first half of the city’s sidewalk, curb and gutter project is set to begin this fall after the Glendive City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to move forward with the project and award the bid to the contractor.

“Schedule I” of the project will now take place this fall. That part of the project contains primarily public property, like along Colorado Boulevard, on Gresham Street alongside Lloyd Square Park and some other parcels of public property.

“Schedule I is going in its entirety,” said Public Works Director Jack Rice.

The council did, however, direct a couple of changes to the Schedule I plans.

For starters, some properties in Schedule I — namely the new condos and townhomes built during the Bakken oil boom along Wyoming and Washington streets, as well as the unpaved section of Sunset Avenue — are going to be forced into the program. The reasoning, according to city officials, is they are keen to clean up the unimproved, gravel streets remaining in town, especially those that were developed recently during the Bakken oil boom.

“We’re enforcing the streets that don’t have any paving or curb and gutter,” said Councilman Rhett Coon. 

Those unfinished streets were left that way by the property developers, something that can no longer happen, as in the past year or so the city has adopted new subdivision and design standards which prohibit future developers from leaving behind unpaved streets without sidewalk, curb and gutter on them.

Coon added that in the case of Schedule I at least, it just made sense for the city to force the issue, which, as City Director of Operations Kevin Dorwart reiterated to the council, is fully within their power to do.

“I think it’s, especially in Schedule I with the grouping we’re doing, it’s kind of ridiculous to leave one sliver out of a big chunk, and it’s the one thing we hear everybody around town say they want improved — streets, sidewalks, curb and gutter,” he said.

However, when it comes to putting together Schedule II, which won’t get under way until next spring, Coon said the city is unlikely to force anyone to stay in who doesn’t want to.

“On Schedule II, I think we’ll look at that a little bit differently because it’s all private residences,” he said.

Another change to Schedule I is that a few private property owners along Gresham were pulled out of it. Rice explained that he had originally included the section of Gresham adjoining the Oakland Athletic Complex in the plan because the city is replacing its sidewalk, curb and gutter on that street alongside Lloyd Square Park, and he said it seemed to make sense to go ahead and do one long run down Gresham. However, of the private property owners along that stretch of Gresham, only one responded that they wished to remain in the program, so they are being pulled out and put in Schedule II.

Schedule II remains a question mark, however. The city needs at least 50 percent of the people who originally signed up for the program to remain in to hold the pricing the contractor set for the project. So far, Dorwart noted that fewer than half of the letters sent out to people slated for Schedule II have been returned, with about 32 percent agreeing to stay in the project and about 14 percent backing out, he said.

The city has a deadline of Aug. 31 to hear back from residents who had signed up for the program, and Dorwart and Rice said they need responses immediately.

The date was extended because the contractor is being extremely accommodating, according to Dorwart.

“We need to hear back from those people,” Dorwart said.

Rice said he doesn’t see the city forcing the issue on Schedule II, adding that if the city doesn’t hear back from the rest of the residents who had originally signed up for the program, it might put Schedule II in jeopardy.

“Then Schedule II’s on the bubble,” Rice said if enough residents do not respond in time, adding “get those letters in.”

Mayor Jerry Jimison encouraged residents who had signed up to not only get their responses in, but to stay in the program. He noted again the advantages it offers — the city takes care of all the engineering, scheduling and hiring the contractor and the cost is spread out over 10 years — compared to what residents would have to deal with if they were to do it themselves, which would mean not only the headache of arranging for it to be done, but having to pay the full cost up front.

Jimison also argued that staying in the program presents residents the opportunity to help improve what he said city officials hear the most complaints about — that the city’s streets and sidewalks are crumbling and in disrepair.

“I’m hoping most people will choose to stay in the program,” Jimison said. “One of the biggest complaints we get is the city is in dire need of repairs ... and this is a great opportunity to fix up a lot of areas around town.”

Reach Jason Stuart at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.

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