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Thu, March 21

Council considers agreements on archaeological digs

PRESCOTT – Archaeological digs that are holding up two major city building projects have finally reached the point of agreement between a number of parties.

At their voting session at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Prescott City Council members will consider two resolutions of agreement on archaeological work. The meeting will take place at Prescott City Hall, 201 S. Cortez St.

One of the agreements concerns the work that is necessary before the city can go ahead with construction on the downtown parking garage on Granite Street.

The other agreement involves the archaeological work that the city must do at Willow and Watson lakes in northeast Prescott prior to recreational improvements there.

Both projects have faced delays because of the historic remains that exist on that land that the city plans to build upon. The Granite Street site holds remains from Prescott's Chinese community of the late 1800s, while the land surrounding the lakes is the site of former Indian habitation.

The agreements, which both involve a number of governmental agencies, set out the requirements for the archaeological work.

For months now, the city and its partners on the downtown parking garage have been working with state and federal agencies to determine exactly what archaeological work is necessary at the public parking lot on South Granite Street where the downtown parking garage is planned.

The need for the work caused the city and M3 Companies to push back the start of construction this past fall until sometime this winter – perhaps by January.

But on Friday, Jeff Davis of M3 said the start of the archaeological work is still about four to six weeks away.

That is because about eight different governmental agencies and other entities must first sign the memorandum of agreement that sets out the terms of the archaeological work.

The City Council will be the first to consider the agreement at its Tuesday meeting. After that, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office, the Arizona State Museum, the Prescott City Centre Limited Partnership, the Prescott Historical Society, and the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Horizon must also weigh in on the agreement.

The dig will take about a month, which will put the start of construction on the parking garage about a month and a half to two months away.

The cost of the archaeological work, which SWCA Environmental Consultants will do, will come to about $132,000, said City Manager Larry Asaro. Sharlot Hall Museum, which will curate the remains, will cover about $11,000 of that cost. The city will pay about two-thirds of the remainder of the cost, or about $80,000, while M3 will pay about $40,000. Asaro said the division corresponds to the amount of land the two entities own at the garage site.

The city's share of the money will come from its $150,000 contingency fund for the garage.

The city's plans for recreational improvements such as swimming beaches, boat ramps, parking lots, and restrooms at Willow and Watson lakes have also faced delays over necessary archaeological work.

At Tuesday's meeting, the City Council also will consider a memorandum of agreement with the National Park Service, the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office, Arizona State Parks, the Arizona State Museum, and the Yavapai Prescott Indian Tribe for data recovery at the lakes.

Parks and Recreation Director Jim McCasland pointed out that the city originally planned to start the recreational improvements by about 2000, but the need for the archaeological work had pushed off that date.

Although McCasland said the cost of the archaeological work at the lakes would easily top $100,000, he could not estimate what the final cost would be.

The memorandum of agreement is an important step to getting the project moving, McCasland said. After all of the parties sign on, the next step is a request for proposals for archaeological firms interested in doing the work.

Until that time, McCasland said, the city is not authorized to do any improvements at the lakes. "We can't do anything; we can't move a rock until we get this done," McCasland said.

Also on the council agenda is a $250,000 addition to the city's contract with Pierson Construction for the relocation of Lee Boulevard. That change order would bring the final cost of the project to about $2.4 million, or 8 percent more than the contract award of about $2.2 million.

The city is recommending the change order because of "unforeseen additional costs incurred during the relocation of Lee Boulevard" over utility work.

Contact Cindy Barks at cbarks@prescottaz.com.

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