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Walnut Lane, Highway 191, transportation discussed at July 27 City Council meeting

  • Updated
  • 4 min to read

The City of Moab’s Walnut Lane affordable housing project has hit a major snag that could send the project back to square one.

According to an update from Moab Senior Projects Manager Kaitlin Myers, the city sent a notice for default to the construction company attached to the project, indieDwell, on July 1 due to the company’s failure to provide an irrevocable letter of credit and meet the schedule of performance they previously submitted.

To address the issue, indieDwell would have to provide those items to the city by Monday, with assurance that they can complete the contract on budget. However, the company told the city that they could no longer meet the settled sum of $1,080,300 due to the increasing cost of building materials.

“We have extinguished all options so unfortunately we are going to ask for the project to be shelved for a maximum of 12 months,” wrote Ron Francis, general manager for indieDwell’s Pueblo branch, in an email to Myers on July 27. “I know you do not like this option, understandably, but because the pandemic caused massive price increases we feel this is the only one available to us.”

Myers said that should indieDwell not meet the city’s requests by Monday, she would recommend that the city end its contract with the company. If the contract is ended, the Walnut Lane project managers would need to find a new builder for the planned duplexes and redesign current plans or abandon the duplexes and find a new Phase 1 builder. The project could also be headed back to the drawing board, with the plans entirely reconsidered.

Highway 191 widening near completion

City Engineer Chuck Williams told the council that Highway 191 will be open to its new full width - four lanes with a center turn lane - by August 6. Construction will continue on off-highway storm drains until September, and hydro-seeding dirt disturbed by construction will take place in October. Williams estimates that the project will be totally complete by October.

The cost of the project was higher than expected due to rock in the subsurface conditions, which the Utah Department of Transportation did not anticipate. UDOT had to bring in special equipment from Pennsylvania to cut through the rock, which cost $3,000 to ship and $10,000 for every week of use. Williams said that UDOT will foot the bill for the additional unforeseen costs.

Future transportation plans

The Unified Transportation Plan between Moab City and Grand County is also partially funded by UDOT. Project Manager Brent Crowther of Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. — the planning and design engineering consultant firm for the transportation plan — joined Williams at Tuesday’s meeting to update the council on the transportation plan.

Crowther emphasized that the firm hopes to solicit community input on potential projects including protected bike lanes, local street connections, managed parking, traffic signal improvements and more. Moab residents can offer input on the transportation plan at the project website, www.grandcountymoabtmp.com.

Other items

Jennifer Sadoff, CEO of Moab Valley Healthcare, Inc., applied to expand Moab Regional Hospital’s existing facilities, including office, clinic and patient services and parking on the main hospital campus at 382 West Care Campus Drive. The hospital has also proposed a new Methadone Clinic Building on the northern campus parcel. To best situate the proposed development, the hospital requested the consolidation of Lots 3 and 4 to create Lot 3a and the realignment of the Right-of-Way for Care Campus Drive and Orchard Park Lane to access Walnut Lane. The city council approved the application unanimously.

As the last item on the agenda, the city council considered a partnership between the City of Moab and Grantwell, a "student-run, faculty-advised non-profit consulting program" offered through Brigham Young University's Marriott School of Business. Grantwell will offer free, non-binding recommendations for how the city administers its RAP Tax. The city received its first remittance of RAP Tax money this week.

Grantwell graduate students will evaluate how to best assemble a committee of Moabites to discern where RAP Tax proceeds go. Finance Director Ben Billingsley emphasized that the partnership will save staff time and city funds.

The council voted unanimously to go forward with the partnership, and will be able to review Grantwell’s recommendations in December.

Updates on old business

City Manager Joel Linares reported that since several meetings with residents about a possible property tax in Moab, he has been working on conducting feasibility studies done at the Moab Recreation and Aquatic Center.

“We want to see if there are better ways we can operate that and if we can cut costs while providing those services,” Linares said. The Truth in Taxation hearing for the proposed Moab City property tax will be held this Wednesday.

At their July 13 meeting, Finance Director Ben Billingsley gave a presentation on the funding that Moab will receive from the American Rescue Plan Act. At the time he said that Moab’s share of the funding would likely go towards either infrastructure or affordable housing projects in the city, but has learned in recent weeks that “there are other creative solutions that could be sought out using that money.” Such options include funding direct household or business stimulus payments, vaccine incentive programs or back-to-work initiatives.

At the Moab City Council’s regular meeting on July 13, Guzman-Newton announced that the city had been awarded Recreation Hotspot Funding from the Utah Transportation Commission in the amount of $10 million. The funding will be allocated towards three projects proposed by the Grand County Commission and the Moab City Council to reduce traffic around Arches.

The largest project — $5.7 million — is increasing parking in Moab, from a parking lot near Emma Boulevard to median parking on Main’s side streets. $2.7 million will be allocated towards lengthening the Mill Creek Pathway to reach Spanish Valley. The remaining $1.6 million will be spent on a transit pilot program featuring free taxis. Data on the taxis’ pick-up and drop-off locations will be collected and eventually used to determine where to place bus stops in the city.

At the council’s meeting on July 27, City Engineer Chuck Williams announced that construction on the expanded parking near Emma Boulevard will likely begin in 2022. The first 300 feet of the shared use path will be paved this fall and the rest will follow in 2022. Williams said that the transit pilot program would also likely start in the spring or summer of next year.

The Moab City Council meets on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. Meetings are streamed online at the Moab City Youtube channel. Schedules, agendas and opportunities for public comment can be found at www.moabcity.org