Council discusses ramifications of downtown project
by Daniel Moore
Press staff writer
The downtown revitalization project will leave Harrison Street in American Falls a little narrower where Pocatello Avenue turns into it. City officials are concerned about large vehicles making the turn safely without damaging vehicles parked alongside the road.
Mayor Marc Beitia suggested that the city shut down on-street parking for the 300 block of Harrison Street after the revitalization project is completed there.
The city will hold a public hearing on the parking ban on Wednesday, May 1, following legal publication in The Power County Press. The 300 block of Harrison Street runs past the American Falls City Park and the American Falls Christian Fellowship (formerly the American Falls Assembly of God).
There will be another hearing that night about RV parking around the city park. Currently, RV parking is allowed in the parking strip on the northeast side of the park. That parking strip will be removed with the revitalization. The city council may move where RVs can park or ban RV parking in the park altogether.
Beitia at first suggested that parking only be banned during the day on weekdays. But Police Chief Brandon Wilkinson thought that would be impossible to enforce and could create a dangerous situation if children were running between cars to cross the busy street during events at the park.
Considering that cars should not park within 20 feet of a crosswalk, Wilkinson figures only about seven parking spaces will be removed, which will easily be replaced by the 20 parking places the downtown revitalization will add around the park with diagonal parking.
The city council, in its meeting on Wednesday, April 3, agreed with the street closure, but was concerned about the lack of parking after Harrison Street is completed but before the new parking places around the park are added. American Falls Day would be in that gap, resulting in less parking for some of the busiest times in the park.
Council member Dan Hammond suggested creating diagonal parking now to increase parking. City Street Superintendent Dusty Whited was less than enthusiastic about the idea, saying it would commit city time and resources to something that will be ripped up not long in the future. The painting has to be done by hand using a stencil, Whited said. Hammond suggested maybe the project could be completed by volunteers, such as a high school senior project.
The council was also concerned about parking for the church, though Wilkinson said from what he saw the parking lot provided sufficient parking for it.
Eliminating parking was not the only issue with the downtown revitalization the council discussed that night. The council discussed repaving the 100 block of Roosevelt Street. That block will not be part of the revitalization project except for replacing the storm drain beneath the road. Replacing the storm drain will leave a trench through the middle of the street, so that part will already need repaved.
The road is pitted with pot holes and is in bad need of repair, said Beitia, and it would be good to fix it while the contractors are already available and working in the same part of town. But that section of road would be difficult to fix. It needs curb, gutter and sidewalks, but the road now only has sidewalks that are level with the road. As a result, the road will need to be engineered and built to include curb and gutter.
A rough estimate for paving the street would be $300,000 to $400,000, but the city will not know for sure until a design is made. The city council approved looking into the possibility.
To fund paving the street, the street department and water department would borrow from the wastewater capital improvement fund and pay the fund back over five years. Those departments’ budgets are heavily tapped, Beitia said, and could become more tapped depending on future projects.
“Fiscally, I think we can do it,” Beitia said, “but I’d be a lot more comfortable if we base our decision on a design.”
The city council also approved a bid for boulders that will be placed around downtown to provide scenery and sitting places. The low bid came in for $43 a ton. A ton will be about one rock. The city plans on buying over 100 rocks. They will be placed in the downtown region by a landscape architect.
The city council expressed surprise at how much the rocks cost. Whited said because the city wants to choose its own rocks to place, it cost more.
“It gives a whole new meaning to picking rocks,” Beitia said.
Also dealing with the downtown revitalization, the Lion’s Club will need to move their annual fireworks booth. The council gave authority to Norman Wright, council member and Lion’s Club member, to move it where he saw fit. Wright abstained from voting on the measure.
The council also approved a bid on the new skate park. Spohn Ranch, a company from California, will be building the park. The company wants to set up a meeting to further discuss what community members want in the park, and will allow the public to post comments on the company website about the plans.