Concrete questions

Midtown sidewalks still plagued by fading colors

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Traffic drives north on Fourth Street in midtown Coeur d'Alene past a section of sidewalk Tuesday which is showing signs of wear.

COEUR d'ALENE - Still stuck on a problem.

The city of Coeur d'Alene hasn't quite solved the maintenance quagmire that popped up after the midtown reconstruction project was completed three years ago - more specifically how to keep the colored concrete just that, colored.

Parts of the maroon-painted slabs of sidewalk need a touch up, as they have every year since the roughly $3 million project was finished.

"At some point, it'll need to be spruced up," said Jon Ingalls, deputy city administrator.

When, exactly, hasn't been determined. A touch-up project is not in the 2013 proposed budget, either. And because streets and sidewalks across town are always in need of maintenance, repairing jobs are done on a cyclically-based wear and age schedule. Despite midtown's relative newness, it will have to wait in line like everyone else.

What exactly will be done to get the color in the concrete to stick?

That's still being kicked around, too.

"The doors are open for options," Ingalls said. "We haven't budgeted the funds to do something, but we could."

Sandblasting the color away as not to deal with the peeling problem is one possibility the city has kicked around. So it just painting it again every so often. Talk of forming a Business Improvement District to help pay for upkeep has been discussed, though it's yet to get far.

"I notice it, customers, especially my political customers, notice it," said Tracie Olin, manager of the Women's Center Thrift Store on the peeling colored paint in front of the Fourth Street store. "We like the front of our store as nice as possible. We work hard to keep it neat."

Olin was one of several midtown stakeholders who likes the improvements overall.

The colored concrete was one of the aesthetic perks of the project geared at making the center section of town more pedestrian friendly. But Olin's political reference stems from who funded the project - the city and Lake City Development Corp., the city's urban renewal agency, which is to say taxpayer money.

And the color has been one of the few things on the project that hasn't worked out 100 percent, some businesses and stakeholders said.

The paint was re-done a year after the project was completed by the sub-contractor under warranty. A year after that, it peeled again, but hasn't been touched-up since. One-year warranties are typical of street projects, the city said.

"It's just color, it's not like the sidewalks are buckling," said JeffreyGagnon, of Paris & Co., on Fourth Street, who likes several parts of the reconstruction project, and isn't all that bothered by fading color. "As long as they're not a public hazard, I don't think they should worry about it."

What wouldn't work is a BID, he said, especially since some affected stakeholders paid into Land Improvement District as part of the project. Adding extra costs for businesses otherwise making ends meet might drive them out of the area. Besides, he said, BIDs don't guarantee that all the sidewalks will be pristine all the time.

The sub-contractor that performed the concrete coloring was C 4 Concrete, and the product used for the coloring was H & C Concrete Sealer.

A representative from the company, who did not want his name printed, told The Press in an article about the peeling paint last August, said the product was applied as directed.

The company had never used the product on such a large-scale project, the representative said.

C 4 did not return messages from The Press this week.

Another technique to color concrete is to mix the coloring into the pour instead of painting it. Ingalls said he wasn't sure why the company chose painting, but chalked the peeling color up to normal wear and tear, especially from harsh winters and de-icing that some businesses may use.

"Basically, a coating of sorts requires maintenance," he said. "It'd be nice to coat it and walk away for 10 years."

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