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Parkline Trail hits budgeting snag

by BRET ANNE SERBIN
Daily Inter Lake | April 28, 2021 12:21 PM

Bids for Kalispell’s forthcoming Parkline Trail on the reclaimed railroad bed through the city’s core are more than $1.2 million above the city’s projected cost, which prompted the Kalispell City Council on Monday to discuss options for the budget shortfall.

The city received two bids last week to install the trail, from Sandry Construction and LHC Inc., but both exceeded the estimated budget for the project.

The budget for the essential elements of putting in a paved trail originally came in at $4,768,540. Meanwhile, Sandry’s bid for this work was $5,993,677, and LHC bid was $7,057,266.

City staff admitted during Monday’s work session — at which no formal decisions may be made — that they had hoped to receive double the number of bids for the project to keep the costs down. COVID-related increases on the costs of labor and materials are also to blame for the unexpectedly high bids.

Nonetheless, the budget shortfall forced the council to reevaluate funding options for the project and whether to include various additional features along with the trail, such as irrigation, water fountains and utility conduits.

City Manager Doug Russell said the city could repurpose $525,000 of Community Development Block Grant money and dip into its reserve funding to cover the costs of the trail, once the council decides exactly which of those costs it’s willing to pay.

The city will make a recommendation for awarding the bid on May 3 and a contract agreement would follow shortly after that.

THE PARKLINE Trail was just one of many items that led to a lengthy, three-hour session for the council.

Another topic was a prospective expansion of the Samaritan House.

The homeless shelter is seeking a planning grant of up to $50,000 through the federal Community Development Block Grant program.

Samaritan House representatives said the grant would allow the group to pursue planning and site development for additional housing at its location on the corner of Meridian Avenue and Second Street West.

Samaritan House has owned the property, formerly a U.S. Army Reserve Center, since 2006. It is currently operated as administrative offices and a kitchen. To create more space for housing, the offices likely would be remodeled, and four new buildings would be added at the site.

The city of Kalispell would act as Samaritan House’s sponsor for the grant application, although there are no financial obligations to the city.

The grant will be the subject of a public hearing and a Kalispell City Council meeting before Samaritan House submits the application to meet the June deadline.

THE AGENDA item that generated the most controversy Monday turned out to be a set of proposed design standards for historic buildings in downtown Kalispell.

Members of the Planning Board brought the Historic Design Standards to the council after extensive discussions with the Kalispell Architectural Review Committee.

The guidelines are intended to preserve the historic character of the city by laying out requirements for exterior elements such as paint colors, historic doors and brick cleaning. They only apply to commercial buildings and incorporate two layers of standards, one specifically aimed at pedestrian-friendliness along Main Street and another pertaining to general historical features throughout the Downtown Business Improvement District.

Council members offered plenty of input on an assortment of different stipulations set forth in the proposed standards. There seemed to be general interest in finding a balance between preserving architectural integrity while still allowing flexibility to property owners.

Mayor Mark Johnson asked the Planning Board to come back to the council at another work session before the council takes any action on the standards.

The council came to a general consensus on opening the City Council chambers to the public starting June 7, although a few council members said they’d like to return to open meetings even earlier.

A video of the work session can be viewed online at https://media.avcaptureall.com/session.html?sessionid=bb0e6635-a750-4493-8cba-5f7552d0d021&prefilter=826,5879

Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at 758-4459 or bserbin@dailyinterlake.com.