PAYETTE — Perhaps it’s time to coin a new adage to help guide local governments: Those who hesitate to construct will pay more over the long run.
Recently the leader of Payette’s long-running Sixth Street Project advised city officials to fund all of the project’s remaining two blocks of water and sewer infrastructure in the coming budget year.
Jim Franklin, chairman of the Payette Urban Renewal Agency, told the Payette City Council on May 20 that upgrading the water and sewer lines under South Sixth Street from First Avenue South to Third Avenue South will be cheaper to complete as a single undertaking as opposed to breaking it into two separate jobs over the next couple of years..
The estimated price-tag for the two blocks is roughly $300,000, and Franklin argues that continual cost increases in construction will only raise the total tab the longer the city takes to complete the project.
On this point, Councilor Craig Jensen asked City Engineer Doug Argo for confirmation, which the engineer supplied. Argo said construction in the Treasure Valley continues to boom and “is still pushing prices up.”
And, in addition to beating the materials and labor cost inflation, gobbling the two blocks in a single bite would be easier to perform because of certain quirks in the old infrastructure’s layout.
“It would be hard to do a one-block [project] on the sewer pipe,” Argo said.
Franklin’s presentation to the City Council included a quick review of the history of the project, which has been the primary focus of the urban renewal agency since the agency’s 2006 inception. The project fits within the boundaries of an urban renewal district created for it, and that district will dissolve in 2026.
Franklin noted the district has already accomplished key objectives of helping to expand a Seneca Foods warehouse and adding a railroad spur at Seneca to keep the company from leaving town.
With the improvements at Seneca completed, the project moved onto Sixth Street, last year improving the block between Center Avenue and First Avenue South. While the district covered the costs for street repaving and installing new curbs and gutters and a sidewalk, the city provided new sewer and water lines, which were needed upgrades the city couldn’t have indefinitely delayed anyway.
The completed block from Center to First Avenue is shorter than the block immediately south, from First to Second Avenue, but Franklin views the completed block as a solid start on the street work.
“We only have one block, but we have one nice little block,” Franklin said.
As the current project sunsets, the agency and the city may decide to choose a new urban renewal project and form a new district. Franklin believes the next effort would benefit from experience gained on the first project.
“This was Payette’s first attempt at urban renewal, and it was done in a skeletal way,” Franklin said. If the city decides to pursue a new project, he added, “we probably need a little better plan up front.”
Franklin made it clear that he gives the first project high marks, however.
“This has been very successful. We kept Seneca here,” Franklin said, and once the remaining Sixth Street infrastructure is in place, Payette will have three excellent blocks “for light industry here.”
At the conclusion of Franklin’s presentation, Mayor Jeff Williams indicated that the agency’s request for two blocks of water and sewer funding in the coming year would have to be weighed against numerous competing budget proposals.
“We can put this and about sixty-five other things into the bucket here,... and see what shakes out,” Williams said.