Filling in the cracks

Cracks have formed above awning supports on the southwest corner of the Lewiston City Library, necessitating temporary bracing of the structure while the city works on a permanent solution for the issue.

Lewiston City Library Director Lynn Johnson told the city council Monday that wooden posts supporting the historic building’s awnings are a temporary solution to cracking that has appeared above one support.

“If you’ve driven down D Street past the library or came down and saw us during (the Artwalk event last week), you’ve probably noticed that we have some extra architecture that we weren’t planning on,” Johnson told the council. “It came to our attention that we have some potential issues with our historic building materials on the south face of the building. We’re working closely with our original architect and our original engineer to solve that issue.”

The city initially erected a safety fence around the area beneath the awning after the cracking was discovered. Workers recently replaced that fence with the posts to provide temporary bracing for the heavy metal awnings.

“The posts were put in place in the interest of public safety,” Johnson said. “We felt that just in case, while this was being worked on, that we would take this extra step to keep everyone safe.”

Johnson said she met with architect Larry Kom on Monday to discuss his ideas for a permanent fix. Kom was the architect for both phases of the remodeling of the former Cornerstone Interiors building, which first opened as the library in 2013. The second phase opened four years later.

The original engineering firm that worked on the building, TD&H of Lewiston, is also participating in the discussions, she said. Johnson said a solution should be in hand within the next few weeks. Once they have a design, city officials can then decide whether to have their own employees do the work or if an outside contractor will be needed.

In other business at Monday’s work session, councilors heard presentations from Valley Vision and the Clearwater Economic Development Association on how they will be affected by Nez Perce County’s decision to not make its regular financial contribution to the groups for the 2020 fiscal year.

County Commissioners Douglas Zenner, Douglas Havens and Don Beck voted recently to pull $32,000 from Valley Vision and almost $12,000 from CEDA. Instead, the county sent the funds to the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport to help pay for a $100,000 project to build a new taxiway to serve the airport’s southside business park.

At the time, Zenner expressed his desire that the vote would be a one-time “hiatus” from funding the groups in order to focus more resources on the beleaguered airport, which saw a steep drop in its revenue when Horizon Air left the facility last year.

And while Valley Vision Executive Director Karl Dye and CEDA Business Development and Finance Director John Lane said the funding will be missed, they said the loss of county partnership on economic development issues is the greater cost.

Lane put the finest point on that issue, describing CEDA as a membership-based organization that just lost one of its most important members. The financial loss will shift the county’s burden onto other members, he said, but it also doesn’t look good to federal granting agencies when a major player decides to leave the group.

He also said the county will not have a voice in the agency’s upcoming strategic planning process. City Councilor John Pernsteiner, who advises economic development agencies around the country, said the work of Valley Vision and CEDA to bring together local and regional partners from both the public and private sectors is crucial to spur growth in the area.

“If you don’t take a regional approach, you die alone,” Pernsteiner said.

City Manager Alan Nygaard invited the groups to the meeting to not only explore the fallout from the county’s decision, but to counter public perception that the city isn’t doing enough to support the airport. City Administrative Services Director Dan Marsh presented information that showed Lewiston has made more than $16 million in direct and indirect investments in the airport since 2001.

The county has contributed about a tenth of that amount over the same period, Marsh said. Lewiston Mayor Mike Collins ended the meeting with a public appeal to Nez Perce County to restore its support for the economic development groups in the future.

Mills may be contacted at jmills@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2266.

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