SLP citizens sound off at street improvement hearing

Citizens railed on traffic levels and proposed assessments at a public hearing for the 2014-2015 street improvement project, part of the Spring Lake Park City Council’s regularly scheduled meeting Nov. 18.

Despite several citizens’ criticisms, the council unanimously approved a resolution ordering the improvement shortly after the public hearing.

In the next two years, five streets are slated for improvement and repair: Monroe Street and University Avenue Service Road in 2014, and Arthur Street, 81st Avenue and Township Highway 65 Service Drive in 2015.

The project will cost an estimated $3.33 million, including $961,445 in assessments, according to City Engineer Phil Gravel.

The proposed assessment rate is $3,079.55 per unit for residential properties and $62.88 per assessable foot for non-residential properties.

Gravel said that the rates are “similar in nature” to previous assessments, but “that might not make it any more palatable to the people who have to pay them.”

Former Councilmember John Herman, a Monroe Street resident, worries that assessments will come in higher than projected.

“The unit rate is certainly subject to change based on the bids,” Gravel said, but he sets assessments conservatively, he said.

Bids are expected to come in sometime in March and the first public assessment hearing will occur next fall, according to Gravel.

Traffic qualms

Monroe Street resident Duane Stombaugh does not want to pay for the project because smoothing out the road will allow cars and buses to streak by even faster, he said.

“I’d rather leave the speed bumps in there and not pay a dime,” Stombaugh said.

Jolene Alger Hansen, also of Monroe Street, is concerned with all of the buses whizzing by, causing her house to shake, as well as people continually running stop signs, she said.

Barbara Bisschoff echoed Hansen’s disquiet.

Bisschoff lives near Park Terrace Elementary School where there is no stop sign, and she doesn’t understand why.

“An awful lot of animals are killed out there; when a kid gets killed out there, then something’s going to happen,” she said.

Public Works Director Terry Randall said that stop signs with LED lights may be coming soon. “They’re costly and sometimes they aggravate residents,” Randall said of their downsides, but “we have a few intersections we’d like to control a little better.”

Bisschoff said that she would like to see buses disappear from Monroe altogether, then called for citizens to raise their hands if they agreed with her.

“That’ll never happen,” Councilmember Jeanne Mason said.

In the project’s design phase, stop signs and traffic patterns will be examined, Gravel said, addressing concerns about buses multiple times throughout the hearing.

“I don’t think they’ll get eliminated,” Gravel said to Bisschoff, but he hopes after dialogue, the Metropolitan Council will help calm traffic by rerouting as many buses as it can.

Part of a larger plan

The 2014-2015 street improvement project is the final phase in a pavement management plan approved by the council in 1998.

“This is really exciting,” City Administrator Dan Buchholtz said of the plan’s near conclusion. “I’m just here at the tail end, but it’s been a lot of work for staff and for the council …. It’ll be fun to finish this up and move forward.”

Councilmember Bob Nelson said that with $60 million invested in Spring Lake Park’s streets, it would not be “a wise choice” to let the streets go unimproved.

Olivia Koester is at [email protected]