What would you do with $280,000?
That is the question facing the Star Valley Town Council. Councilors have less than a year to decide how to spend Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money over the next two years.
In years past, the council has put the money toward emergency housing rehabilitation, a crossing at Valley Road, a fire hydrant engineering study and town hall improvements.
Not all of these projects worked out as intended; only two families benefited from the housing rehabilitation funds.
“It can sometimes be difficult to spend the money wisely,” said Town Manager Tim Grier.
At the Oct. 5 council meeting, councilors discussed some ways to spend the 2011/2012 grant funds.
Councilor Paty Henderson said she would like to see more spaces for children to play, and suggested building a small park or baseball diamond.
“I know we have done streets and roads and crossings,” she said. “Where do we get the most bang for our buck.”
Henderson said she would like to hear from citizens where the town should put the money.
Councilor George Binney agreed that the town needs at least one recreation site, but also suggested the council consider the town’s biggest threat: flooding. Clearing channels, installing three to four new crossings and looking at detention basins are other ways to spend the money wisely, he said. “Between floods and roads, we can spend the money easily.”
Grier said community input is crucial. “This is a decision that is going to be to be well thought out,” he said.
The council said it would revisit spending CDBG funds later when it had more input.
Detention basins were a hot topic at the council meeting. Binney asked the council to approve a $4,900 engineering study for detention basins.
Basins placed north of town could help ease yearly flooding that threatens to wash away homes.
While the town is still investigating the feasibility of basins, Binney said a study would help the town show the Forest Service and Army Corps of Engineers that basins are the only thing that will help with flooding long term.
Floodwater Task Force member Gary Rolf said the task force does not know where or how the basins will look, but a study helps get the project rolling.
“There is still a lot of work to be done, but this is a door opener,” he said.
Councilor Vern Leis said he didn’t have a problem spending $5,000 on the study, but did not want to use engineering firm Mountain Standard. Leis and Mayor Bill Rappaport said they thought Mountain Standard was too expensive.
Councilor Barbara Hartwell defended Mountain Standard saying they have done excellent work.
Andy Romance, with Mountain Standard, said he has always offered his clients unsurpassed value. “I have lived and worked as an engineer in Payson consistently and consecutively for the past 23 years, longer than any other engineer in town,” he said.
Romance said he was unaware the town had even discussed the project, since he was never notified.
In the end, the council elected Grier to pick an engineering firm of his choice.
In other council action, approval of the bid packet for the Valley Road drainage crossing, which will be handed out to bidding contractors, was postponed pending completion of an environmental review. The item was tabled to the Nov. 2 council meeting.