Committee discusses road improvements, light poles for public use

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The Libby Lights, Streets and Sidewalks Committee met Tuesday afternoon to discuss 2019 improvement plans for the City of Libby.

The agenda had the committee discussing the use of light poles for holidays and festivals as well as the conditions of the Libby roads and maintenance.

City Administrator Jim Hammons addressed the committee with a layout of his plans for the roads.

Hammons explained that he did not have a lot of information on the streets such as the oil costs or the timing charts. He said he plans on adding to the information he presented to the committee at a later date because he has plans to continue the Libby paving project.

“I’d like to get 20 or 25 blocks paved this year,” said Hammons. “It’s probably going to be a while again before we have another paving company come in. We do have the gravel all done and budget-wise we are looking pretty good.”

Hammons said he did not want to pave too many roads because the city street department is getting close to paving existing water lines. He said that is the reason he is pushing for some water projects to be finished so he can go ahead and pave the roads without the threat of having to dig up the water lines at a later date.

“We need some good infrastructure in the ground,” said Hammons. “Then we can put pavement over the top of it.”

Hammons said he would also like to start working on some of the alleys in the business district. He said his department tries to maintain them but they are falling apart.

“It just takes one bad week and we are back to where we were,” said Hammons. “As far as keeping them graded.”

Hammons said he would like to see a double-coat chip done to the alleyways. A “chip seal” in paving is a pavement surface treatment that combines one or more layers of asphalt with one or more layers of fine aggregate. He said he understands they don’t want to put “$12,000 into an alley,” but chipping-wise, he thinks it will be a lot cheaper.

After some questions from Councilwoman Kristin Smith about the conditions of the alleys, Hammons told her they have problems with businesses in the back where they have had to take gravel and build the ground up because the water from the alley was draining close to or underneath the foundations of the businesses.

“That’s the problem, there is nowhere else for the water to go so then we are looking at storm drainage or doing dry wells and they did a couple but they fill up so quick because of the clay. It doesn’t perk at all,” said Hammons.

Hammons said he should have the costs of the street projects by spring of this year.

Light poles

The Libby Lights, Streets and Sidewalks Committee also discussed the street decoration policy for light poles.

As it stands, there are no set of rules in place describing who decorates the poles or who takes the decorations down. The question about where the Christmas decorations get stored is also an issue that committee members did not have an answer to.

“I think the reason this has come up is because some of the decorations, people didn’t take them down in a timely way,” said committee member Kristin Smith. “If we are going to allow folks to continue to use those public poles we should just have some guidelines.”

Hammons said Mayor Brent Teske thought he had a company lined up to take the decorations down and store them, which contributed to how long they remained up. However, Hammons said Teske received a call on Monday that the company was not interested. Teske was not present to comment.

“They are stored back where we always store them,” said Hammons. “They are in rough shape.”

Committee Chair Gary Beach suggested creating a form for organizations interested in using the poles.

“We could say you can decorate 30 days prior to the event, but it has to be moved 30 days after,” said Beach.

Beach said in order to keep the process simple he suggests having just one form to fill out per event by the event’s organizer. The committee decided not to give as much time as 30 days before and after.

“I think maybe just a total time frame,” said Smith. “Thirty days from start to finish.”

In recognition of Epiphany, which is celebrated by Christians on Jan. 6, the committee agreed to allow 40 days total for Christmas decorations to be on the poles. Epiphany is a public holiday in many countries and marks when the three wise men — or kings — visited infant Jesus.

Walking paths and wayfinding

Not on the agenda but brought up during the committee meeting was the Kootenai River Development Council and some of their plans for infrastructure in Libby.

KRDC CEO Tina Oliphant brought up the idea of creating more walking paths around the city.

Smith asked Hammons if he had received the information about wayfinding, and what the changes were from the state. A wayfinder is a sign, landmark or other indicator used to assist people in navigating to a particular location.

Hammons said nothing has changed and he is creating a packet to forward to Oliphant concerning the matter. According to Hammons, some questions were still left unanswered.

“Who is going to maintain these signs when they get shot up or run over by snow plows, is that going to fall onto us? These signs are very expensive. This is all a great project but a lot of details weren’t hammered out before it was brought to us,” said Hammons.

He also said he didn’t realize a lot of the signs were going to cause conflict with the state, businesses and property owners.

Oliphant responded that KRDC did not need to know about the potential problems Hammons posed.

“You do need to know because I have been hearing around town that the city isn’t doing anything. So you do need to know,” said Hammons.

Oliphant said all that the KRDC needs to know about are the changes in the wayfinding project.

“The council got my report with all the changes in it,” said Hammons.

“We don’t have the report,” said Oliphant “Why didn’t we get that report?”

“Well, my job is to give it to the council and I did,” said Hammons.

The committee asked Hammons to get the wayfinding report to the KRDC.

The next scheduled Lights, Streets and Sidewalks Committee meeting will be Friday, Feb. 15 at 12:05 at Libby City Hall.

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