By Ross Markman
Craig Erickson has asked the Havre City Council not to spend its CTEP money.
Erickson, planner at Bear Paw Development Corp., is also the local administrator for CTEP, the Community Transportation Enhancement Program. Through CTEP, the Federal Highway Administration allocates money for projects ranging from landscaping to sidewalk maintenance to historic preservation.
Monday night, Erickson recommended that the council hold off on allocating its CTEP funds, primarily because one of its intended projects will cost significantly more than originally expected.
Council president Rick Pierson declined comment Wednesday, saying he wanted to speak with Erickson before forming an opinion. No other council members could be reached.
The project in question is the sidewalk that fronts the entrance of Havre Beneath the Streets on the corner of Second Avenue and First Street. Water, Erickson said, drips off the sidewalk and onto the displays and people visiting the historic tour site. The sidewalk, Erickson said, has nothing beneath it but air.
If the repairs are done, the existing sidewalk, curbs and gutters would be replaced and waterproofed.
"We thought it was a simple project. We went out and said, How much do you think it will cost?'" he said. "Then we started digging. The more we dug, the more complicated it go."
A project that began as a $16,900 estimate two years ago is now expected cost anywhere between $65,000 and $250,000, Erickson said.
"The higher estimate is what the engineer said ideally could be done. That basically involved removing everything," he said. "The low end is more realistic."
The council, Erickson said, has a July deadline to decide whether to move forward with the project or if it wants to do what several area communities are doing bankrolling their money for larger projects.
The CTEP allocations were actually delayed more than three months this year, Erickson said. He usually finds out in late January how much cities and towns will receive. This year, he got word on April 16.
"Typically we start planning for these projects in March and April. We don't waste time," he said. "But this year, we weren't afforded that luxury."
Erickson cited the effects of Sept. 11 and the national recession as factors contributing to the delay.
"If we don't submit an application in July, they have to wait until next year," he said. "My recommendation is let's wait and see what it's going to cost to repair those sidewalks."
Havre received $53,949 in CTEP dollars this year, which boosted its CTEP balance to $92,662. The amount a city, town or county receives is based on a complicated formula, Erickson said, with population a key factor.
Havre is the recipient of more CTEP funds than any city or town from here to Great Falls, he added.
"The city can expect to get that amount next year or maybe even more," Erickson said.
Havre has other projects in the works that will utilize CTEP dollars, including landscaping around the ice dome, a $100,000-plus project that Erickson expects to go out for bid in the next few weeks.
As for the Beneath the Streets sidewalk project, Erickson said, it's now in the council's hands.
"The project is already being developed. It's something that needs to be done," he said. "The council can do what it wants. This is just a recommendation."