WA: Grant Puts City on Path to Improved Sidewalks

Aug. 14--WALLA WALLA -- A nearly $150,000 federal transportation grant will pave the way for three new projects to improve pedestrian mobility throughout the city.

The Walla Walla City Council on Wednesday night authorized acceptance of a $146,546 grant from the federal Transportation Alternatives Program. Council approved the motion 6-0. Councilman Jim Barrow was absent.

There is no required match for the funds, but with an additional $15,000 already budget from the city and $20,000 from Valley Transit, the total available for work is over $180,000. That money will be used for new Americans With Disabilities Act-approved ramps and minor sidewalk work at the northeast corner of the Plaza Way/Tietan Street intersection; sidewalk infill on the southside of Isaacs Avenue, east of Wellington Avenue; and a lighted crosswalk on Rose Street, west of 13th Avenue, near Family Medical Center.

Preliminary estimates for the work tallied around $185,000. Valley Transit's portion will be dedicated to the crossswalk on Rose Street. As part of its approval, the city accepted that it will have to provide any shortfall in funding.

The three projects were all endorsed by the city's Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. City Clerk Kammy Hill said this morning construction will likely begin next spring.

In other business Wednesday, Council members in attendance unanimously approved a three-year collective bargaining agreement with the Walla Walla Police Guild, through 2015. Approval was a step in the process after several meetings and mediation. Signed by the union last week, the agreement provides salary increases of 2.5 percent for 2013 and 2014 and a 3 percent increase for next year.

The agreement also increases employee cost of health insurance premiums from 5 percent to 10 percent effective Aug. 1, 2014. Furthermore, the city will contribute 3 percent to match employees' base pay, excluding overtime, to deferred compensation, for employees who contribute the initial 3 percent.

In a separate decision, Council tabled a decision on allowing beer and wine tasting at the Downtown Farmers Market until the next Council meeting. Council members reportedly want the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation to further vet the idea through its board and through downtown wineries. The state Legislature last year made permanent a pilot program that had tested beer and wine sampling at select markets throughout the state. But this is the first time the downtown market has broached the idea. The tabling of the idea was approved 5-1. Councilman Chris Plucker cast the lone no vote.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at 509-526-8321, vickihillhouse@wwub.com or on Twitter.

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