Sidewalks stir controversyA sidewalk project on Hallquist and Eunice avenues is drawing strong opinions on both sides but ultimately will move forward for now, Red Wing City Council members decided.
By: Danielle Killey, The Republican Eagle
A sidewalk project on Hallquist and Eunice avenues is drawing strong opinions on both sides but ultimately will move forward for now, Red Wing City Council members decided.
At Monday night’s meeting the council unanimously approved plans and asked for bids on the project. The issue will come before the council again for a vote after bids are received, likely at the second March meeting.
In December the council agreed that a sidewalk project on Eunice and Hallquist avenues should move forward after being delayed for years. Members cited issues including safety concerns and connectivity as justification.
But some who live in the area have spoken out against the project.
“We appreciate the reasons the council has given us for going forward on this project,” but many people don’t agree with them, Hallquist Avenue resident Cory Doden said Monday.
Speaking for a group of residents who submitted a petition against the project, Doden said people are worried about the cost of the assessments and about losing a number of mature trees to the sidewalks.
“The cost of those sidewalks do not bear out in the benefit we are told we’re going to get,” he said.
Funding for the about $292,000 project currently is planned to be a mix of assessments to property owners, capital improvement plan general funds, general obligation bonds and unused 2011 sidewalk funds.
Doden also said he doesn’t think there is a significant safety issue but residents are willing to look at alternatives to sidewalks to address that concern.
Some council members fought for the project. President Ralph Rauterkus said the area is unsafe, especially for pedestrians and young children.
Council member Peggy Rehder said the council needs to consider elderly and disabled people who are trying to travel in the area and said traffic is increasing.
“This is a heavily traveled, likely to be more heavily traveled, street,” she said.
Safety is a growing concern, Council member Mike Schultz agreed, though he added he would “fight for (residents’) trees.”
But while all council members approved the move Monday, many did say they were reconsidering the plan.
“I’ve got to tell you, I’m starting to have second thoughts, and a lot of this has to do with how we’re funding this,” Council member Dean Hove said.
Council member Lisa Bayley said while she shares the council’s concerns, she also is worried about funding.
“I’m looking at all the projects we’re turning down … we’re saying we’re not going to fund something else, we’re going to fund this, and then we’re getting all this opposition,” she said. “I’m just not there yet.”
Council member Marilyn Meinke suggested considering alternatives to traditional sidewalks while Mayor Dennis Egan recommended neighborhood meetings.
“I would think before we spend this money if there’s resistance … that we would have that dialogue,” he said.
But timing is an issue when it comes to construction, Engineering Director Ron Rosenthal said.
The only way the council can kill the project is with at least six votes.