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Neon Alley costs discussed by council

A preliminary cost estimate of the Neon Alley project was discussed at the Sunnyside City Council meeting last night.

Two estimates were provided to council, one for a length of 135 linear feet and the other for 280 linear feet. The estimate for the shorter distance was $353,270 and for the longer distance was $489,105.

The Neon Alley proposal would convert the alley next to Centennial Square in downtown Sunnyside to a pedestrian walkway linking the square with Central Park. It would include a display of the city’s historic neon signs. Several signs have been acquired by the city to be restored and displayed if the project becomes a reality.

Deputy Mayor Don Vlieger noted that, while the costs seem high, the estimates include work the city can do itself. He also noted that some parts of the projects would involve enterprise funding, softening the blow to the city’s finances.

He also pointed out that some costs might be combined with the downtown revitalization project. Part of the infrastructure for Neon Alley will need to be installed during the downtown construction in order to save the city money.

In addition, Vlieger said the project would take several years to complete, meaning that the cost would be spread out in more manageable amounts.

Councilman Jason Raines suggested that the next step is to break the project down into phases and determine how much each phase will cost.

Councilman Dean Broersma said he was a little daunted by the cost of the project as estimated, but his main concern is that the city does not start the project and then abandon it.

As a cost-saving measure, Vlieger asked if stamped concrete could be used in the place of brick pavers, which make up a substantial portion of the costs. Superintendent of Public Works Shane Fisher said it might be possible because the alley would not have vehicle traffic.

The council decided to send the issue to the public works subcommittee to discuss further, with the understanding that a decision on Neon Alley needs to be made before construction on the downtown revitalization project begins next spring.

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