Open forum opens debate on Main Street
Tuesday, November 27, 2012 3:17 AM
Over 25 residents packed into the meeting room as the Spring Grove City Council convened on Nov. 20. A discussion on next year's Main Street reconstruction project brought plenty of comments during an hour and a quarter long public forum portion of the meeting.
Mayor Saundra Solum uses the white board to explain information on the upcoming Main Street project.
Noting the results of the recent election, Mayor Saundra Solum began the discussion by reading a prepared statement.
"Let's make sure we keep this town thriving and a place many want to live in and visit," she said. "I'm always thinking of what's best for Spring Grove.
"I am not upset about this election. I am just really sad. There is so much misinformation out there, and I am at a loss on how to make everyone know and understand the right facts."
As an example of inaccurate rumors, Solum said that she was recently asked why streetlight bulbs for the new poles will cost $500 each?
In reality, they cost $20 to $30, she stated.
With $385,000 already invested in engineering the project and $1.5 million in MnDOT funds at risk should plans change, she said, "We need to work together and not take sides on this issue."
Councilmember-elect Nancy Nelson took issue with Solum's words, especially noting how the plans have developed.
"The council has a lot of leeway, but there are limits to that," she said.
"We care about this town, too. With two-thirds voting in opposition of some of the spending plans - that's a strong message to this council.
"There are a lot of older people that can't afford this. You (the present council) don't want to hear what we have to say."
Everything from streetlights to the condition of downtown sidewalks, colored concrete accents, planters and benches, irrigation, bumpouts, street widths, storm sewers, crosswalks and more were debated.
"I'd just like to get both sides to talk," resident and technical committee member J.C. Nerstad said. He added that MnDOT came to that group with some ideas that might have been unpopular with townspeople, but "they had to listen to us at times.
"I'm concerned about the rate of speed through town," he added, noting that traffic along the widest areas of Main Street tends to move faster.
When the addition of bumpouts along Main Street in order to slow traffic speeds came up, Nerstad repeated often-reported statistics that the residential section of Highway 44 will actually become wider, and that while bumpouts will choke the width down to 36 feet, that's still a lot roomier than the 24 feet that now exists when parked cars line both sides of the highway.
Those narrow places (bumpouts) are also where crosswalks will go in.
Noting flooding at the Spring Grove Cinema and water problems in front of Spring Grove Communications, GM/CEO Craig Otterness said that it's high time to address the city's storm sewers.
"It's happening in my neighborhood... so I'd like to see it fixed," he stated.
"There are a lot of things that are going to get fixed," Solum said.
"We've been paying for that engineering out of our reserve fund, so when the bond goes in, it will repay that."
Project engineer Tim Hruska of WHKS was scheduled to provide an update on the Highway 44/Main street reconstruction project at the meeting, but did not appear.
He is scheduled to appear at the council's Dec. 4 meeting, the last regularly scheduled meeting before the 100 percent plan is due to MnDOT. It is assumed that the council will vote on the plan at that time.
A part-time city administrator?
Later, Councilmember Steve Kemp opened a new topic when he said, "I think it's time to look for a part-time (city) administrator."
"We may want to contract out the position or make it part time," Solum added. "The problem is, I cannot be at city hall all of the time.
"They are in charge of the city, and if you don't have an administrator there all the time, what do you do? You can have a clerk, but times have changed. The clerk can't do all of the things that the administrator does. There's a lot of financial matters that they cannot address.
"I just think it's worth investigating and bringing back," Kemp concluded.
No other action was taken by the council on the matter.