KUNA — The city council approved $279,000 of additional funding to the downtown revitalization project.

The city received one construction bid, a high one, for Phase One of the project, which would improve pedestrian mobility and beautify downtown. The bid, approximately $1 million, was almost $314,938 over a planned construction cost of $732,800.

At its July 18 meeting, the council unanimously approved increasing its approximate $205,800 planned contribution to almost $485,000 to compensate for the new deficit.

So far, the city has spent almost $140,000 in engineering fees, such as designing the project. About $66,300 went toward administrative and other costs. These are separate from the $1 million construction cost.

Sixty-six percent, or about $1.3 million, of the total project cost is covered by grants, federal and other partner funds. After adding on project designing and other administrative fees to the $1 million construction bid, Phase One of the project will cost about $1.4 million.

Now, with the council’s approval of additional city funds, phase one of the project — which entails widening sidewalks, improving curbs and gutters, and adding landscaping and street lights — can begin this August. A second phase is planned for 2019.

TO FUND, OR NOT TO FUND

In light of the cost overruns, city council members heard options from city staff and J-U-B engineers about potential courses of action.

Councilman Pat Jones expressed concerns about increasing the city’s contribution, stating that some taxpayers might ask, “What am I getting out of this?” He added that while he understands certain repairs, such as the sidewalks, need to be done, there are other things that taxpayers have expressed a need and want for, such as the splash pad and new playground equipment, that those additional funds could cover.

Jones asked about sources of funding, such as through an LID or an Urban Renewal project, but Mayor Joe Stear said those mechanisms are based on growth and increased tax revenue, and because downtown has no chance of growing out, a larger district would need to be created and then that could cost the city more money.

Councilwoman Briana Buban-Vonder Haar and council president Richard Cardoza asked about consequences for delaying the project.

Lisa Bachman, with J-U-B engineers, said some grant or federal money might have to be paid back and, if the council wanted to make changes to the project design, there would be an additional cost of $15,000.

Kuna city clerk Chris Engels added that some significant changes would need to be made to the design so that, for legal reasons, the city wouldn’t appear to be bid shopping.

Councilman Greg McPherson said he felt the city had already put a lot of money and effort in the project, and that the city probably didn’t want to be in the same boat as the movie theater.

After discussing the proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget, and finding out they had the money to do so, the council unanimously approved the additional funds.

“I don’t think we have much of a choice,” Jones said during the discussion. “I hope the businesses on all of Main Street understand what (the project) is going to do for them. And I really hope they come on board and do something to take advantage of it.

I know some will. I’m concerned about others, but I just hope that if they see what we are doing is investing in them, and (the taxpayers are) investing in them, I better see something in return.”

THREE YEARS LATER

City officials and downtown business owners began discussing the project in 2014. The consensus, with input from the public, was that there was a need for improving downtown’s appearance and functionality.

Plans for the project began in 2015. Around that same time, the initial fund-gathering process began.

Partner money, according to the city’s website, includes:

  • $500,000 Community Development Block Grant (commonly called CDBG) through Idaho Department of Commerce
  • $200,000 grant through Community Planning Association for Southwest Idaho (commonly called COMPASS)
  • $200,000 Ada County Highway District investment

Phase One was expected to begin early August 2017 and end before winter.

With the approved additional $279,000 contribution from the city council at the July 18 meeting, that time-span is still on target.

“I have a true respect for the council’s thoughtfulness on deliberating downtown and making the best choices based on the community’s input that’s been going on the last couple of years,” Engels said in an interview. “This council is very well thought and they listened to the whole project and they stay informed in their … they listen to what the community says.”

2 PHASES

Phase One includes reconstruction of Main Street from Avenue D to Avenue C. New curb and street gutter will be built, and sidewalks will be widened.

Landscaping, stamped concrete and decorative street lights will be added.

The east side of Avenue E from Fourth Street to Main Street and sidewalks and lighting on the north side of Main Street from Avenue E to Avenue D will also be improved.

Phase Two is expected to begin in 2019 and cost $1.4 million. City officials are in the process of securing funding.

Phase Two is designed to align with Phase One. The project area is Main Street from Avenue C to Avenue A before the roundabout.

FUNDRAISING FOR BEAUTIFICATION

Residents have expressed an interest in including art and other beautification features, according to Engels, not covered with grant or other funds.

Engels is looking to raise about $60,000 for features such as banners, flower pots, flowers, sidewalk art, Kuna Caves trash receptacle art and a mini water tower replica exhibit.

“Avenue E is going to be like an art alley,” Engels said. “For lack of a better term.”

Some of the art, Engels hopes, will be historic photos of Kuna. Another piece, will be interactive for the youth. Engels said the city is looking at large-size “interactive” letters that would be painted and have contributed art to by the youth. This helps them learn art comes in many different forms.

A block that people can stand on, and possibly pose for pictures, will be at the end of the letters.

Engels said project organizers watch that they are spending funds as appropriate and as set out by the grant guidelines. These grants were targeted toward infrastructure.

“The above and beyond amenities,” Engels said, “such as the banners, and the pots and flowers, tree grates, art work, that’s beyond what the grant and city funds are dedicated to at this point for this project, which is why we are trying to do fundraising and continuing to look for other grant opportunities.”

Engels has secured two donations totaling $5,400 that include a bench purchased by Stubbs Realty in honor of Lloyd Stubbs and a $1,500 cash donation from Keller Associates to be used at the city’s discretion. Other donations include benches and bike posts.

Engels said she is trying to secure funding for the community for projects, amenities, and lifestyle options and the Greenbelt, green space and walkability are pretty important to the community.

A bench has been purchased by Stubbs Realty for an art display in honor of Lloyd Stubbs.

Keller Associates committed $1,500 toward any area at the city’s discretion.

Other sponsorships for benches and bike posts have also been given.

Donations can be dropped off at the clerk’s office in Kuna City Hall. More information can be found on the city’s website, kunacity.id.gov, or by calling Engels at 208-387-7726.

“We’re very blessed to have so many partners investing financially,” Engels said. “It’s been somewhat of a long process to get to turning dirt but we are there and it has been lots of input from stakeholders and agency partnerships that is making it successful.”

Alx George is the Kuna Melba News reporter. Contact her at 208-922-3008 or editor@kunamelba.com.

Comments

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.