I’m not going to call him, he is teaching

Our City
by A.F. Mayor Marc Beitia

“I am not going to call him, he is teaching.” Those were the words spoken to City Clerk Robyn Herndon last Friday by one of our community members affected by the Fort Hall construction project. And, while I very much appreciate the thoughtful regard for my full-time job, I also have the obligation to serve you to the best of my ability. If in fact you need something or have a question no one else at the city can answer please call. If I don’t answer, leave a message or send a text. I will get back to you as soon as my schedule allows. Thank you.

I convened a meeting to address the progress of the Fort Hall project last week and I will have had another on Tuesday of this week. As the person speaking to Robyn last Friday correctly pointed out, the project’s contract states that the contractor has 70 days from the start of the project to complete it. Seventy days went by sometime ago. Let me explain. At the pre-construction meeting we had in May after the bid for the project was awarded the fact that infrastructure existed beneath the pavement that was never properly recorded or marked was discussed. Given the fact that similar circumstances were encountered during the downtown project I agreed to some leniency in regard to the 70 days. I did not, however, agree to an indefinite timetable. There are penalty clauses in the same contract, the enforcement of those clauses was the topic of this Tuesday’s meeting.

To the businesses, property and home owners affected by this project you have my most sincere apology. I know it changes nothing and I know one of my personal weaknesses in regard to doing business on your behalf is that I tend to be too lenient. Another similarity to the downtown project besides the unknown infrastructure is the contractor’s inability to pass the required water tests. Upon completing the construction of the water line it had to be pressure tested. That test failed causing a blowout. I suspect that the blowout allowed dirt to enter the new pipe. The contractor has been unable to remove all of the dirt for over two weeks. If you have noticed the continuous flushing from fire hydrants that is the only way to get the foreign material out. Don’t be alarmed. It has not affected your water. The Fort Hall system remains closed to the rest of the city.

Many of you received notices that your water was to be turned off on Monday of this week. I did receive a phone call from Principal Shafer at the middle school upon his receipt of the notice. A series of values and tie-ins was installed throughout the Fort Hall project on Monday. No service was expected to be off for more than one hour. If yours was I again apologize. The Fort Hall system remains isolated from the rest of the city services until all tests are passed. I will follow up with details from Tuesday’s meeting in next week’s column or you can come in after 3:30 or call. I will not be available in the office Wednesday afternoon.

Because my schedule is what it is, I often miss out on things I would not normally do in a regular day. I want to thank Jay and Maggie Cottom for hosting a block party last Saturday night where Sally and I got to catch up with old neighbors and meet new ones. Maggie got her elk on opening day, a spike, and graciously shared elk burger with all of us. Kids and adults played lawn games as stories were shared. One young couple Kerry and Camille Lattimer, who moved here a few years ago, went on and on about how they loved the neighborhood and town. They recently bought property and a building downtown that they plan to renovate and open a new business. Awesome!

On the topic of new businesses, my dual enrollment plant science students have been working these past two weeks rearranging the greenhouse and installing new hydroponics systems. They look forward to having tomatoes, peppers, herbs and lettuce available for you to purchase this winter and next spring. The installation of the new systems has lent itself nicely to the new project-based learning emphasis adopted by the school district. It has been fun to watch the students learn by doing.

Lastly, speaking of doing, if you are interested in helping solve the poverty and health care crisis that many in our community face again please contact Sarah Nulph at city hall or Nikki Funk at the school district office. Please leave an email address. Superintendent Randy Jensen will send you a short four question survey as to the days you would be available for a one day training in November or December. Our goal is for 100 volunteers to take part in this effort. Please consider helping.

Until next week…

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