Star Valley can’t get a screaming deal on lighting up the highway after all.
But never mind, the council last week decided to move ahead with a plan to put street lights on Highway 260 to give residents a better chance of surviving a scurry across the highway at night.
The town had hoped to use existing APS power poles to put street lights along the highway from roughly Highline Drive to Milky Way, limiting the project cost to $46,000. But it turns out the existing poles already have too much wiring strung on them, so the town will have to put in new poles — boosting the cost to about $70,000.
The pointedly parsimonious council decided to foot the bigger bill.
The decision came during a council meeting that included a progress report on a slew of capital projects, which the council took pride in paying for with cash and reserves rather than borrowed money. Most of the projects — including a couple of overruns — stemmed from the ongoing effort to upgrade the water system that serves about a third of the town’s residents. The town has relied mostly on state and federal grants to vastly increase the capacity of the system, so it can in theory serve the whole town if people develop problems with the network of wells that supports most of the residents’ water use at present.
Town Manager Tim Grier reported on ongoing capital projects, including:
• Upgrades to the Sky Run water project, running over budget due to complications with the electrical wiring. The town has also completed the Lumberman’s Well, part of the effort to provide plenty of water for “future generations.”
• Sealing the town hall and adding fencing.
• Improving the community garden with the help of volunteers and donations on land purchased by the town for the purpose.
• Making additional improvements to the town park, which now includes a zip line, a pickleball court, a water cannon in addition to picnic areas and playground equipment for kids.
Of course, the council didn’t accept the need to spend $70,000 on the street light project without a certain amount of spirited discussion.
Grier noted that the council could spend even more and get pretty poles. “We had Becky O’Conner come in and say we want fancier poles and fancier streetlights — antique-ish, something that fits our town a little more. But it’s going to cost you more.”
Councilor George Binney said he rather light up the pickle ball courts in the town park.
“At the next meeting we’re proposing to light the pickleball courts,” noted Grier.
“That would be more community oriented,” said Binney.
“They’re really two different things,” said Grier.
Binney then countered that the town will also end up paying $4,000 annually to power the lights “for infinity.”
But Mayor Gary Coon said the purpose of the new lights is to improve safety. It’s hard to see people at night when they’re standing out in the middle of the highway trying to get across.
“I think the additional $23,000 will be well spent for the citizens and our town,” said Councilor Bobby Davis. “And if we get our own poles, we can decorate them at Christmas.”
Councilor Andy McKinney noted he ventured out at night recently and as he drove carefully through town “I was right on top of one of our citizens in a motorized wheelchair and I didn’t see him until it was much too late. Fortunately, he was in the little safety zone. I’m very disappointed we can’t use the existing poles — but the need persists.”
On the next agenda item, the council made up for its little splurge.
Residents have been complaining about speeders on Moonlight Drive.
“It’s very narrow and very curvy and at least once a day I run into a situation,” said Coon. “It’s very dangerous at best.”
The proposal on the council agenda called for the purchase of a $7,000 speed sign, permanently installed on the street. The electronic sign would light up for people exceeding the 25 mile-an-hour speed limit. Speed bumps were also a possibility.
Binney said the flashing speed signs only slow people for a moment. “The only thing that’s going to stop them is photo enforcement.”
“That’s not really an option,” said Grier. “The signs on the highway do work, but I’m not sure the effectiveness would be the same for people driving by five times a day.”
Binney also didn’t like the idea of speed bumps. “You should volunteer to have them in front of your house” and listen to the sound of cars hitting the bumps all day long.
Davis hit upon a compromise — portable radar speed sign trailers the town could shift from place to place. Better yet, ADOT and the town already had some unused portable trailers, which would probably work better than installing a $7,000 permanent sign.
McKinney liked that idea. “Those little portable trailers would be a partial solution. Thank goodness we have oodles of money, so if we need to revisit this we can.” He was referring to an earlier financial report on the town’s ample financial reserves, thanks to its settled policy of contracting out just about everything rather than hiring town employees.
So the council let the proposal to install permanent signs die — in preference for borrowing the portables from ADOT.
Concluded Coon brightly, “hey, we just saved $7,000.”
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