Priest River’s downtown utility lines going underground

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(File photo/MARY MALONE) The initial concept for downtown focuses on a four-block area stretching north to south between Highway 2 and Montgomery on Main Street, pictured above, and Cedar to Wisconsin from east to west on High Street. Some of the improvements include colorful foliage and updated lighting, and expanding the sidewalks.

PRIEST RIVER — The Priest River Urban Renewal Agency board approved a resolution last week to receive a $250,000 loan that will initiate the first portion of the downtown revitalization project this fall.

“One of the primary elements that the city wanted to take care of was to bury those overhead utilities that are on the north side of High Street” said Matt Gillis with Welch Comer Engineering, the city’s contractor for the project. “... It’s very expensive to bury certain types of utilities.”

The negotiated cost between Frontier Communications and city officials, which Gillis said is an approximation, is $198,683 to put the lines underground. The contract with Frontier for the amount was approved by City Council members on Sept. 4. The PRURA loan with Umpqua Bank was approved on Sept. 4 as well, and closed on Sept. 11.

In addition to the work that will be performed by Frontier under the contract, which includes wiring, splicing and inspections, the city will be responsible for excavation of trenches, placing conduit and backfilling the trenches, as well as other aspects of the construction.

Mayor Jim Martin told the Daily Bee earlier this year that the plan is to underground the lines, because as the sidewalks get wider as part of the downtown revitalization, the poles would be located in the middle of walkway, which is “not an ideal situation.” All of the utilities for street lighting will be underground as well, he said.

The initial concept for downtown focuses on a four-block area stretching north to south between Highway 2 and Montgomery on Main Street, and Cedar to Wisconsin from east to west on High Street. Some of the improvements include colorful foliage and updated lighting, and expanding the sidewalks.

Some of the on-street parking will be lost with the addition of wider sidewalks, Martin said, so the city purchased half of the parking lot between the pocket park and the dentist’s office. He said the city is working with the owner of the other half to pave the lot for additional off-street parking, which would add about the same number of spaces they would be losing.

One of the more complicated — and more expensive — aspects of the downtown revitalization is the need for grade changes in the proposed revitalization area. Downtown sits on a hill, Martin said, so the buildings on the north side of High Street sit “significantly” higher than the buildings on the south side of the street. Therefore, when it rains, the water runs down from the intersection of Wisconsin and Highway 2 by the old car wash, collecting in the parking lot behind the art gallery and running down onto High Street. As it does that, Martin said there is so much water running down that it comes up over the top of the sidewalk.

The downtown revitalization project was slated to begin last spring. It was rescheduled for spring of 2019, however, due to a lack of funding for the project. The city has been awarded a $500,000 grant for downtown revitalization by the Idaho Community Development Block Grant program. The total estimated project cost is $924,906.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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