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City might bite the bullet for Caldart project

POULSBO — If the Poulsbo City Council had to select one street project, one road proposal that has gotten the snuff more times than any other in past decade the group would likely point out Hostmark Street to Caldart Avenue.

Over the years, the neglected road has seen big plans come and go — but never stay. Despite the “someday” history of the highly used roadway, Caldart may finally be getting some richly deserved attention. The wheels of progress seem to be turning in favor of the one street in Poulsbo that virtually everyone agrees is a potential danger to the children of this community.

Running along North Kitsap High School’s highly traveled property, Caldart lacks gutters, stormwater treatment and sidewalks. Even as kids scramble onto dirt and gravel shoulders to avoid oncoming traffic, the city has yet to find the financial key that will open the door to a final solution — they are, however, checking their pockets.

“I don’t mean to put it off again,” City Councilman Ed Stern told members of the Poulsbo Public Works Committee recently, urging that concrete steps be taken toward a resolution. “The history of Caldart is always next year. Mañana. We’ve got 15 years of mañana.”

Last year, the project was estimated at about $800,000 but the proposed addition of a detention pond at St. Olaf’s Catholic Church has upped the ante to over the $1 million mark and well out of the city’s price range — again.

With the majority of grant options approximately a year down the road, City Engineer John Stephenson has suggested Poulsbo apply for a 20-year Public Works Trust Fund Loan. The loan deadline is quickly approaching, he said, but there is some question as to whether or not the city would be able to utilize the funding in the near future.

“I think we would be approved and then we could decide whether or not to take it,” Stephenson said, assuring the committee that turning down the loan would not be detrimental to Poulsbo’s future dealings with PWTFL officials.

“Right now, there are several balls in the air. We’re about halfway there,” he added.

Presently, the city has about $450,000 it can use toward the project but even with an additional $75,000 pledged by the North Kitsap School District, the funding glass is still less than half-full. According to City Finance Director Donna Bjorkman, the interest on Poulsbo’s 20-year commitment will range from 1-3 percent, leaving annual costs anywhere from $27,000 to $35,000.

Stephenson said he wanted to take the wait-and-see approach to the loan because a re-design of the project proposal could save the city big bucks. Low-impact development, he told the Poulsbo Finance Committee last week, could save the city upward of $200,000. The stream-lined proposal would collect runoff in the middle of the road, instead of gutters, which would reduce the scope of work significantly.

“I think there’s an opportunity to do this low-impact and save $200,000,” Stephenson explained.

While the proposal isn’t even in the design stages, Councilman Dale Rudolph urged the engineer to inform the North Kitsap School District as soon as the project reaches a workable phase.

“When we get into the design stages we need to let the school district know about it so they can get it in their budget for the next year,” he suggested.

That will likely mean another year of “mañana” for Caldart Avenue, as Stern would put it.

“I drive that enough to know that when it rains it pushes the kids into the middle of the street. I’m very uncomfortable with the situation,” Stern explained. “Good intentions won’t get us there.”

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