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Libby City Council ponders Cabinet Heights street situation

by Canda HarbaughWestern News
| October 27, 2009 12:00 AM

Cabinet Heights residents could end up with better streets than they started out with once the sewer extension project is completed next summer. Libby City Council is contemplating options after hearing a proposal Monday from project engineer Ryan Jones.

Because the city’s loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development was not intended for road improvement, it was put out to bid in a fashion that encourages tearing up as little road as possible and patching the excavated areas, Jones told the council.

Jones said he worked with Rural Development to devise a better plan for the area’s streets. He gave the city three options – stick with the status quo, pay out of the city’s own funds to asphalt the entire area or use loan funds to double chip seal the roads.

“The cost to pave is an improvement to the city of $300,000 and is prohibitive,” Jones said about asphalt, the most ideal option.

Jones suggested the chip seal. He explained the process – workers would excavate about eight inches and use the existing material as subgrade. A non-woven filter fabric would then be placed down as a barrier to provide more structural integrity. Six inches of pit run crush would provide the base and then a prime coat would be applied. Finally, another coat of oil, and two coats of chip seal – three-fourths of an inch and five-eighths of an inch – would be layered on, separated by oil.

“This is a compromise that would fit in the budget,” Jones explained to the council. “… It’s substantially better than what’s up there now.”

The council didn’t discuss the options at the meeting, but will be considering them in the next week or two.

“It (double chip seal) will be better than what they started with, Ryan (Jones) assured me of that,” councilmember Peggy Williams said. “Whether it’s the way to go, I don’t know. I think, as a council, there are a couple things we need to look at.”

Mayor Doug Roll said double chip seal is the city’s best option because paving is too costly.

“A patch job is not going to work – it would be such a mess,” Roll said. “I think it (double chip seal) is going to be a good surface. Obviously it’s not the ultimate, but it costs half a million for asphalt.”

The current chip seal surface of the roads – Highwood Drive, Reese Court, Gilgrease Lane, Vista Avenue, Cabinet Heights Road, Cabinet View Road and Scenery Road – vary from a half-inch inch thick to three inches thick, according to Jones, and the base material is poor, reducing structural integrity.

With $217,000 already in the contract for road restoration, the increased cost to double chip seal comes to $116,000. Rural Development agreed to allow the city to dip into its project contingency reserve, a fund set aside to cover unforeseen expenditures, for the roadwork.  

“After several weeks of back-and-forth, Rural Development agreed that this was reasonable,” Jones said, pointing out that asphalt paving would not be practical in the agency’s eyes because it would eat up all of the contingency funds.

Cabinet Heights residents have endured 10 weeks of construction so far – muddy roads and damaged lawns – so that they can eventually hook up to Libby’s sewer system. Though construction will continue as long as weather permits, Jones said Edstrom Construction anticipates shutting down at the end of November. If Edstrom sticks to the 36-1/2 week contract, the project will last well into the summer once it commences in the spring.

As of Monday, 5,700 feet of sewer main was laid of the total 13,500 feet that is expected to be completed next year. Erosion control measures will be taken on Bowen Hill Road before winter shutdown. Edstrom will be responsible for road maintenance throughout the winter, Jones said, with exception to snow plowing.   

Next spring the contractor will begin extending sewer lines along Cabinet Heights Road, up to Cabinet View Country Club and homes on Scenery Road. A lift station will be built near the country club, and once all homes are online, restoration work will begin on roads and residential yards that were damaged, Jones said.

In other news at Monday’s meeting:

• The council’s cemetery and parks committee stated that an over 12,000-square-foot proposed skateboard park would have to either downsize or find a new location. Councilmembers Williams and Ron Carter said that that size of park running along the east side of Lee Gehring Field would leave no space for essentials such as restrooms and parking. Skateboard park organizer Trent Oelberg disagreed, stating that the preliminary design meets all of the city’s qualifications.

• The council discussed a request from the Libby Care Center to create at least one route with good sidewalks from LCC to downtown Libby for the nursing home residents, most of whom are wheelchair users. The council noted that it might be able to tap into state Community Transportation Enhancement Program funds for the project.

• Environmental Protection Agency officials introduced the council to Alan Berger, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. Berger and his students and colleagues plan to study the Libby area and present ideas for growth and economic development.

• The council unanimously approved a subdivision behind Millwork West.

• Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition members and U.S. Forest Service personnel asked the city to draft a letter to the Forest Service in support of the Flower Creek Project, a multi-layered fuels management plan to protect the city and municipal watershed from a wildfire. The project proposes pre-commercial thinning and fuel grinding, about 800 acres of commercial harvesting, road improvements, and temporary road and trail construction.