Oroville plans to expand sidewalk south along Highway 97

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OROVILLE – Oroville wants to become even more pedestrian friendly with nearly one and a half miles of new sidewalk planned following the east side of Highway 97 south.

The pedestrian project would fill in the gaps in the existing walkway along Main Street. The sidewalk would pick up where it dead ends south of Appleway Street by Expressions Espresso and head south past the old Colbert Warehouse and Okanogan Estate and Vineyard’s wine shop, The Tumbleweed and a residence. It would then connect with the walkway in front of the U.S. Border Patrol Station. It would be picked up again across the street and run along the highway to the city limits, according to Rod Noel, Superintendent of Public Works.

Noel told the Oroville City Council at their Tuesday, Nov. 4 meeting that the STP Pedestrian Project 06 was originally planned back in 2006, but funding issues have delayed any action on the plan. STP stands for the federal Surface Transportation Project.

“Due to the difference in costs between then and now the project has gone up over 50 percent,” Noel said. “We are now looking at doing the project in two phases.”

The funds would help the city construct curb, sidewalk and gutter in two sections at a cost of nearly $1 million. Washington State Secretary of Transportation Paula Hammond, in a letter to Gov. Christine Gregoire last February, said the sidewalk, curb and gutters would improve safety and be “regionally significant.” The project was at the top of the DOT’s list for projects for the federal funding in the Okanogan County Region.

If the federal government reauthorizes funding for this and other similar projects, Oroville would be responsible for a local match of 13.5 percent, which in turn would be picked up by the state’s Transportation Improvement Board (TIB), according to Noel.

“This is the same funding that helped us with the recent pavement preservation around Oroville,” Noel said, adding, “Oroville would probably still have to pick up two to three thousand dollars in non-eligble items.”

The city is required to call for References of Qualifications (ROQs) for engineers to do the project. Toward this end the city will be interviewing the top three engineering firms on Dec. 4. A Project Prospectus must also be done. According to the state Department of Transportation, “The Project Prospectus is the description of the proposed improvement which serves as the support document for Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) authorization of federal funds. The prospectus also provides a schedule which tells state and FHWA programmers when the local agency anticipates obligating federal funds.”

There is already sidewalk on most of the west side of the highway running from Prince’s Center on the north to where the highway and Main Street split near the Alaska Way Apartments. The city hopes to start on one of the two phases in 2009.

“If the funds are there I agree that I would rather do the south end first because there is no sidewalk there at all, but there some issues. The north end would be easier because it already has curb, while the south part has some ditches, etcetera to deal with.”

In other business, the council agreed the city should exercise its ability to increase property tax collection by one percent. The decision was made following a public hearing held at the beginning of their council meeting. The motion to approve the increase was made by Councilwoman Neysa Roley and seconded by Tony Keopke and passed unanimously.

This will help the city take advantage of the increased city property valuation due to new construction and annexation, according to City Clerk/Treasurer Kathy Jones. Local taxing districts are not allowed to increase property taxes by more than one percent unless they go to a vote of the people.

Under old business, the council approved a Deep Bay Park Use Application made by a bicycling group. The group of 250 riders and 30 support staff will camp at the park for two days in late July and donate $600 a day to the city. They will bring their own trailers for showers and restroom facilities, but will need hook ups to city water.

“The application was made with the understanding that they need to leave the boat launch open during this period. They also will provide a certification of insurance and liability,” Jones said.

“We are looking for more bodies on the Planning Commission,” said Mayor Chuck Spieth, who appointed Susie Sader as an alternate to the commission.

Oroville Police Chief Clay Warnstaff said he had promoted Officer Todd Hill to the position of corporal.