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Kalispell Officials Say Parkline Trail Over Budget Due to Rising Costs

Officials are working to redirect additional city funds for the project; city council also considers Samaritan House expansion proposal for affordable rental units

By Maggie Dresser
Courtesy rendering

City officials are working to allocate additional funds for the Kalispell Parkline, a multi-use path that will replace the railroad tracks, after receiving two bids for the project, which will be $2.5 million over budget due to the rising costs of materials and labor.

At an April 26 council work session, officials brainstormed alternate sources to fund the remainder of the baseline of the project, which would include ripping out the railroad tracks, building the trail, lighting, converting a bridge, street crossings, lights and historical signage, which are the minimum requirements to meet the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant obligations.

The city received two bids on April 22, the lowest from Sandry Construction with a base bid of $6,473,171, including construction administration. The engineer’s base bid and construction administration estimate, which officials say was gauged several years ago, is $5,150,023.

“Certainly things have changed,” Development Services Director Jarod Nygren said. “It could have been worse just from the things I’m hearing from developers with cost and labor and materials.”

In addition to the base bid, there are eight additives for the project, which include seeding and irrigation, lighting, U.S. Highway 2 bridge improvements, first spare conduit, second spare conduit, site furnishings, west end at Meridian and plaza map etching.

Officials have identified seeding and irrigation as the first priority, which is planned for the initial installation along with the base of the project, costing an additional $938,065 with all additives totaling $1,514,204.

City Manager Doug Russell proposed using $525,000 in previously resolved Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) funds; the 20% reserve amount from the general fund, which officials estimate will be around $700,000; and $1 million from Old School Station closeouts.

“That would give us $2.5 million,” Russell said.

While the seeding and irrigation wouldn’t necessarily be critical infrastructure, city officials emphasized its importance to be completed with the path installation.

“I think the council and possibly the community would be a little disappointed to only have that immediate stretch through there and not really build out the full green space and the usability and the desirability of it,” Russell said.

Councilors will review the contractor’s bid proposals at the May 3 council meeting.

The remaining additives will eventually be included in the project as funds become available.

Separately, Samaritan House officials have plans to expand the homeless shelter facility on Second Street West to add four multifamily residential buildings with 14 units to address affordable housing in Kalispell. The units would be available to rent for “very low-income individuals and families.”

Samaritan House officials are requesting $50,000 from the CDBG grant, which would facilitate a one-to-three cash match of $16,700. The City of Kalispell would be a sponsor of the planning grant and would make no financial contributions to the facility.

“The Samaritan House has a long history of serving folks in the area,” Executive Director Chris Krager said. “We operate the homeless shelter, some other types of housing including some real affordable permanent apartments … The Samaritan House is also a community housing development organization, and that’s the role that helps us in pursuit of the CDBG planning grant. We serve 1,300 or 1,400 people annually in the shelter and our other housing, and in the kitchen and café (we serve) three meals a day with 38,000 to 39,000 meals annually.”

The expansion would include single-occupant sleeping rooms, family dwelling units, a multi-use kitchen and dining space, and an administrative area.

“I think the vision of what you can do with the Samaritan House property is incredible and I’m excited to see this move forward,” Mayor Mark Johnson said.

If funded, the project would be completed by the end of 2022.

In addition, the council discussed downtown historic district design standards after the Downtown Business Improvement District (BID) received a grant to develop the standards for downtown Kalispell.

The Montana Main Street Program grant allowed the BID to hire A&E Architects to develop the design standards to “establish a unique and identifiable character of downtown.”

Standards include pedestrian-friendly urban site design and historical architectural form, material and colors “reflective of Kalispell’s period of significance (1891-1960).” Review would be required for new buildings, additions, façade improvements and signs 20 square feet or larger.

Mayor Johnson and some councilors were concerned the standards were too restrictive and compared the guidelines to HOA guidelines.

“How would this be perceived from someone looking from the outside wanting to develop a piece of property?” Johnson said. “Is it too relaxed, is it too restrictive, is it too specific, is it not specific enough?”

Councilor Sid Daoud expressed concern that the standards would be unattainable for some businesses.

“One of the side effects, I fear, is we are only able to cater downtown to the businesses that can afford these upgrades and the design put forth, Daoud said. “We might be creating a different downtown than we have now as far as the businesses we have there … it’s kind of an economic burden.”

City officials plan to host council meetings open to the public in the council’s chambers starting June 7.

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