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City Council expedites project to save millions

By Kaitlin Loukides
Published On: Oct 29 2012 08:15:11 PM CDT
POCATELLO -

This afternoon, four City Council members met with a lobbyist firm over sandwiches and a heavy discussion over how they will save a multi-million dollar check.

Lobbyists from the Grossman Group, based in the nation's capitol, have been trying to work with both the City and the state's congressional leaders in order to push a long-awaited project forward. 

"If we lose this $2.6 million, I don't think there's any chance to get new money," lobbyist Lawrence Grossman explained. "It means the only reason why anyone would say they're not giving you your $2.6 million back is because we're not ready by somebody's deadline. We've had this long enough, we should have been ready."

Some know this as the South Valley Connector Project, which will rebuild portions of local roadways with efforts to make travel safer and to clear emergency exits.

"The project is going to be an asset to the community," Pocatello City Engineer Deidre Castillo said. "It's going to spur development on the south fifth avenue portion of the city, and then it will improve emergency access as well."

Right now, some members from the City Council along with the project's engineers, are frustrated with the dollar incentives Congress has placed on the project in order to get it off the ground.

The City was originally awarded $2.6 million for the South Valley Connector project, but the hypothetical bank note was repealed unless the City starts digging by April.

Right now, the money is sitting with the Department of Transportation until the first phase of the project is under way. 

Grossman says the last time money was appropriated to the City was three to four years ago, so getting this project off the ground is the number one priority.

Mayor Brian Blad also attended the meeting and said he has high hopes the City will be able to keep the money it was originally awarded.

Council members are also saying, although the construction will not begin until April, the project plan must actually be started by the end of this year.

"We have to do something and start turning ground by the end of December in order to get that money that was taken back," City Council member Craig Cooper said. "It's in the hands of the state transportation department right now. So we're hopeful we can work together and get that back."

Despite the many road blocks these project leaders have had to hurdle over, they are down to the final stages before they are ready to commence. 

The City will hold a hearing on Thursday and Friday in order to negotiate a settlement for one last crucial piece of property. 

Project planners were not able to discuss details of this property being discussed at this week's hearing.

So far, contractor's bids are still under review and the City is not expected to hire a contractor for this project until either February or March.

This is a two-year project which will not be completed until the Fall 2015. 



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