The Safe Routes to School master plan and grant processes came into question once again during Monday night’s Klamath Falls City Council meeting.
Though councilors voted 4-1 to move forward with the first grant application submission in last month’s approved plan, they did not do so without more discussion and some debate on where matching money would come from.
The first grant submission would seek to add sidewalks on the south side of Delta Street from Oregon Avenue to California Avenue. Current estimates reveal a price tag of $350,000 with at least $70,000 coming from the city.
Councilors Bill Adams and Dan Tofell both question where the money would coming from. Adams was the sole “no” vote on the application.
Adams had previously said he was not against “safer school routes,” but continues to question efforts from the Klamath Falls Blue Zones Project and other parties involved.
“I’m not saying that this isn’t maybe a good project, but quite truthfully I would rather see the $70,000 put into our streets,” Adams said.
City council approved the Safe Routes for Schools master plan at last month’s city council meeting, which followed after a series of meetings and group discussions on which school zone neighborhoods required the most work.
Many of the project costs average between $100,000 and $300,000, though some had larger price tags.
Tofell also brought up the topic of neighborhood visits in the areas where projects would be put in, adding that he was unsure if people who live in these specific neighborhoods were actually informed on what could happen in terms of new construction.
Chief concerns included the possible reduction of road widths or driveways, though Willrett added it was too early to tell if there would be any significant shifts on certain projects.
“I think we need to involve the people a little on that street, not just the people who held the meetings,” Tofell said.
Where’s the money?
Public Works Director Mark Willrett said that the city did not have much time to race against the clock with grant applications from the state due by Oct. 15.
He added that at least $10 to $15 million would be available statewide, also citing that the current regional needs for street and sidewalk improvements were in the $100 million range.
“It is a competitive application,” Willrett said.
Two options for paying for matching funds on the projects continue to come up: the city could either pull from its streets fund or revenue from the co-generation plant off Highway 97, which comes from effluent sold from the city’s Spring Street wastewater treatment facility and other sources.
Tofell said he had reservations, adding that they should at least try to pull from street funds.
“I’m a little reluctant to dip into those revenue funds,” Tofell said.
City Manager Nathan Cherpeski said they’ve made at least $1.3 million in the last three years.
“It’s essentially an ongoing revenue stream as long as you don’t spend too much of it,” Cherpeski said.
Airport support also revisited
City council also voted 4-1 to approve a more than $538,000 airport taxiway G improvement project, which Airport Director John Barsalou said was much needed.
“Now it’s in very poor condition and needs to be resurfaced,” Barsalou said.
Adams, mirroring several past statements he made at meetings earlier this year, was perplexed by how much money the city continues to spend on the airport.
“I guess I just have a tough time with us spending as much money out there at the airport on this stuff when we don’t have air flights into our community,” Adams said.
Adams also asked why more money could not come from military funds to repair the airport since Kingsley Field was a major tenant. Barsalou said he would check and maybe have something “in the next couple of months.”
Barsalou added commercial air services were not the only use at the airport, specifying that Kingsley Field operations made up for about 30 percent of its operations, in addition to other private parties and aviators.
The airport’s current fixed-based operator is EAL Leasing, which operates as Century Aviation and Emergency Airlift, according to previous reports from the Herald & News.
Airport officials last told the H&N that SkyWest had last agreed to consider talks on restoring commercial air service in 2019. No new developments with any other airline have since come forward.