Road plan cut to 'heat' of the matter

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— By reducing the scope of improvements and increasing assessments on local property owners, City Council was able to push improvements to Longthong Road in a special session Tuesday. The council unanimously passed a second reading of an ordinance establishing a Local Improvement District dedicated to heating the steep, mountain-area road.
Up until this point, driving up or down Longthong Road on a winter day could be a treacherous undertaking. The unpaved road has a grade greater than 10 percent and a nasty first turn that has caused more than a few drivers to slide back onto Apres Ski Way.
"We've even had snowplows come up the hill and then slide back down onto Apres Ski Way," said Jim Thompson, a resident who lives at the top of Longthong Road.
Thompson asserted that despite the steep grade, there have been no major accidents on the road during the approximately 20 years he has lived there. Still, Thompson said the residents who live on the road have been trying to get the improvements made for about five years.
The plan to heat a portion of Longthong was formulated after a study of heated municipal roads in Snowmass. The city and Longthong area residents planned to pay for the improvement project with bonds enabled by a Local Improvement District approved by voters in late 1997. Under the provisions of the district, the city's cost for the roadwork would be regained through assessments against the property in the district. The city and the property owners in the district reached accord March 3, 1998, on a cost-sharing maintenance agreement.
The city had still been unsure as to how it would finance the project after the first reading of the ordinance, because the lowest bid was $80,300 more than the city's estimated cost of the project. Influenced by recommendations from Public Works Director Jim Weber and City Manager Paul Hughes, however, the resubmitted ordinance was modified to reduce the scope of improvements and assess the needed funds from the LID.
"We had a neighborhood meeting back in mid-July where we sat down and we discussed the options that would be available to them based on the bid results," Weber said. "They expressed a concern that they didn't want to go back to another election to change the LID."
Longthong residents were intent on getting the heated asphalt regardless of the extra cost needed to match the lowest bid.
"We decided that we would put our money where our mouth is," Thompson said.
The council passed a resolution allowing Weber to revise the scope and cost estimates for the project, which resulted in the new ordinance.
Initially, the ordinance consisted of a plan to lay a heated asphalt section on the bottom part of the road, put down an asphalt overlay for the upper part and reconstruct the asphalt on Valley View Drive. The amended ordinance left out the second two asphalt improvements, keeping only the heating portion of the original plan.
The city will initially front the money for the project and will recoup it from the nearly 100 residents of Longthong who leveraged the necessary bonds with their Local Improvement District.
Weber said a contractor should be working on the road within two weeks. With the revised scope of the project, the heated road should be finished by Thanksgiving.

To reach Avi Salzman call 871-4203 or e-mail asalzman@amigo.net

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