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Assessments waived for 61/ Spring Creek

Despite tabling an order for improvement and preparation of plans for the Highway 61/Spring Creek Road intersection, City Council decided Monday not to assess parcel owners near the proposed construction for project costs.

City Engineering Director Ron Rosenthal said funding from property owners would account for only a small portion of the $5.8 million project, which will receive both state and federal funding.

“(Council) felt that’s enough hardship for these property owners that we don’t need to assess them,” Rosenthal said.

Council members opted to vote on the improvement order and plans Aug. 8, concluding more time was needed after Monday’s public hearing.

John Wooden, owner of River Valley Power & Sport on Highway 61, urged the city not to close the intersection.

“If we began to close every intersection from Highway 61 from where it starts in the state to the Iowa border, I think we’d have a lot less businesses and a lot less people gaining access to that highway,” he said. “So, I struggle with the generalization that we have to close the intersection.”

Other speakers included Todd Siewert, of Siewert’s Garage, who said he felt “left in the dark” regarding the future of the surrounding properties. “Even though we’ve been working on it for 10 years and we’ve gone to all these public hearings, we seem to get the same answer every time we come: they have a plan and this is what the plan is,” he said. “This is something we should have the opportunity to discuss with them.”

Rosenthal said staff has met with Wooden and Siewert throughout the process.

State Trooper Dan Lewis, the sole project proponent to speak at the hearing, called the realignment a “life-saving move” on a stretch of road he has patrolled for 29 years.

“Unfortunately, I’ve had to cover up some people from fatality crashes,” he said. “I’m 100 percent behind the project of closing this intersection. I know there’s going to be some pain from people having to make changes, but with change for safety is going to come some pain, and I think that pain is better than covering someone up with a blanket and having to knock on their parents’ door.”