- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—A relatively brief and placid Lewiston City Council meeting Monday night saw a flicker of discord when Councilor Bob Blakey learned he has been passing along false information to the public.

The Lewiston Public Works Department drew Blakey’s ire when city Development Engineer Shawn Stubbers told him improvements designed to make 18th Avenue safer don’t include complete curb work adjacent to traffic circles installed last year.

“It looks unfinished,” Blakey said. “It looks shoddy.”

Blakey said he drives on that road three to four times a day, and has been telling constituents the curbs would eventually be continuous. But Stubbers said the budget for the grant-funded project didn’t allow for complete curbing, and the city would have to go into its pocket for additional work.

“We’re always up against budget constraints,” Stubbers said.

Half of the $600,000 project is funded by the Federal Transit Administration, and the balance by the Idaho Community Development Block Grant program. Work to complete curbs, gutters and sidewalks east of 17th Street should resume in the coming weeks.

Mayor Jim Kleeburg jumped to defend public works, pointing out that curbing would redirect stormwater down a street where there are no catchbasins. Stubbers said gravel shoulders and swales where there are no curbs provide adequate drainage.

The topic came up during a discussion to approve the last project section on 18th Avenue, from Eighth Street to 10th Street. New sidewalks will be installed, defective ones will be repaired, bike lanes will be created on both sides of the street and pedestrian crossings will be improved.

The cost of that portion of the project is $217,000, with $201,000 from federal sources and $16,000 from the city. The changes to the entire corridor — including the traffic circles, speed “cushions” and road narrowing — are intended to calm traffic and create safer conditions for cars, bikes and pedestrians, including the children who walk to local schools.

City Project Engineer Alannah Bailey said work completed so far has had the desired effect, with traffic counts and vehicle speeds both seeing decreases.

But Blakey still voted against the improvements between Eighth and 10th streets based on his overall unhappiness with the curb situation. The six other councilors voted to support the work.

In other business, the council welcomed new police Chief Chris Ankeny to the city. Monday was Ankeny’s first day on the job, and he thanked councilors for their unanimous vote in support of his hire, and for the opportunity to make Lewiston the safest community it can be.

Ankeny, 43, hails from Las Vegas, where he served for 22 years, most recently as the head of the Metropolitan Police Department’s Crimes Against Youth and Families Bureau.

During its public comment period, the council heard from Jeff Vaughn, who said a parks and recreation employee approached him Monday while he was using his metal detector at Locomotive Park.

Vaughn said he was threatened with a fine for digging in the park. But he said he is careful to replace sod when he digs for an item, and only does so when the grass is damp enough that it will regrow.

The Lewiston resident said he also performs a public service through his hobby, removing buckets of trash from city parks every year, like sharp pieces of metal that could harm people. Vaughn also pointed out that a recent car show in the park did far more damage to the turf than his careful digging.

City Manager Jim Bennett said city code does prohibit digging or disturbing grass in city parks, but invited Vaughn to his office to discuss the issue and find some way he and others could continue practicing their hobby.

Mills may be contacted at [email protected] or (208) 848-2266.

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(c)2015 the Lewiston Tribune (Lewiston, Idaho)

Visit the Lewiston Tribune (Lewiston, Idaho) at www.lmtribune.com

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