By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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The council voted 4-1 Monday to approve the design contract, with Councilman Erik Erichsen providing the dissenting vote.
Under the contract, Seattle engineering firm Grey & Osborne will design improvements to the east-west street that fronts the south side of the school district campus — including the administration building, athletic fields and Helen Haller Elementary — in addition to several homes and the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula's Carroll C. Kendall unit.
The firm also will design improvements for sewer and water lines beneath the street.
“There are a lot of other roads in the city that need to be taken care of,” Erichsen said.
“Frankly, this sounds like a nice thing to do. But we don't have the money.”
Deputy Mayor Dennis Smith and council members Ted Miller, Ken Hays and Laura Dubois voted in favor of the contract.
Mayor Candace Pratt and Councilwoman Genaveve Starr were absent from Monday's meeting.
If done, the project would improve the roadway, upgrade sidewalks that are missing along portions of Fir Street and create more room for bicycle traffic, City Engineer David Garlington said.
The city's transportation master plan calls for development of Fir Street as an east-west travel arterial to take traffic off Washington Street.
Though a grant from the federal government will cover most of the design costs, Erichsen worried, as did other council members, that the city would then be committed to pay for the improvements.
Cost of improvements
Garlington estimated that repairs to the street would cost $2.3 million and utility improvements would be $1.95 million.
If all goes well, Garlington said, the road could be rebuilt by 2017.
“So, are you committing us by agreeing to this $500,000 to a $5 million project?” Erichsen asked.
“We haven't identified those funds — where they're going to come from.”
Garlington said he has spoken with Clallam County officials about having more federal Surface Transportation Program funds dedicated to the Fir Street rebuild. The federal dollars are administered by the county.
He was also hopeful funding for the project could come from the state Transportation Improvement Board, noting that panel places high priority on projects that improve safety near schools.
City Manager Steve Burkett also said the city likely would receive grant funding for the project, saying federal officials tend to favor projects for which they have already funded designs.
“If we didn't think we could be successful in getting the money over a number of years, we wouldn't be looking at this project,” Burkett said.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at email@example.com.