After a motion to move forward with the installation of a roundabout at the intersection of DeKalb and Cook streets in Redwood Falls died for the lack of a second at its Sept. 19 meeting, Redwood County commissioners directed Keith Berndt, county engineer, and Bill Helget of Bolton & Menk to present some other potential improvement options.
At its meeting Oct. 3, the board saw five options that provided various looks that would do everything from removing the frontage roads entirely to adding turn lanes and signals.
Helget told the board the initial intent of the project was to help improve the intersection. That, he said, also meant ensuring the safety of pedestrians and vehicle traffic. Those concerns were still front and center as the options presented were developed.
Helget said there were pros and cons with each plan, adding issues with access for residents onto DeKalb Street would arise in some of the options if they would be required to back out of their driveways onto the street.
Helget also developed options that would have included the addition of sidewalk along the residential areas of DeKalb Street.
Jim Salfer, county commissioner, expressed a lack of interest in that idea, as he raised concerns about who would maintain those sidewalks. Helget said the addition of sidewalks would be similar to other residential areas of the city and issues such as snow removal would then be the responsibility of the owners of the residence as it is in other areas.
Art Anderson, a resident in the neighborhood at DeKalb and Cook said the county board should not really concern themselves so much with the truck traffic on DeKalb Street, as he has watched and it is not them that are doing the speeding and creating the accidents. His position, as a resident in the area, was that the intersection should remain the same.
Other members of the community also expressed their thoughts, including Jim Buckley, who is a member of the Redwood Area Board of Education.
“Our first concern is the safety of the kids,” said Buckley.
Buckley said he was at the public open house in September and listened to those who have road expertise express their opinion that the best option for that intersection is a roundabout.
“These are people who do this for a living,” Buckley said, adding he is hopeful that the county commissioners would reconsider their decision and move forward with the roundabout.
John Buckley, a member of the Redwood Falls city council, reiterated that, as he said there are so many positives with a roundabout that the county board should think about that as its best option.
“What I heard at the meeting with the public was a lot of worst-case scenarios and scare tactics,” said John Buckley. “People just don’t like roundabouts, but you get used to them. I have driven through them, and they work.”
Dave Forkrud, county commissioner, who said he spent time watching the intersection during a busy time, expressed his opinion that the best option is to leave the intersection as is.
Bob VanHee, who also lives in the neighborhood, said this issue continues to be a big concern for the people who live there, adding his phone keeps ringing and people keep stopping him to talk about it. In the end, the county board opted to table its decision regarding the intersection until its next meeting, which is scheduled for Oct. 17.
Helget said in the two weeks between meetings he will be able to come up with more detailed plans for the options that were presented which will be given to the board members in order to help them come up with their final decision.
In other action during its Oct. 3 meeting, the county board:
• Set a public hearing for Oct. 17 at 10 a.m. to discuss an amendment to the county’s proposed buffer ordinance.
• Approved submission of a letter of support for United Community Action Partnership, as it moves forward with a pilot program that will add another bus route in Redwood Falls.
• Approved a request from the City of Redwood Falls to participate in a project that would reconstruct the streets around the Redwood County courthouse. The city is submitting an application to receive local road improvement program (LRIP) funds in the amount of $1 million to help with the costs of the project. The estimated cost of the road work is $1.439 million, with the remaining dollars then split between the city and the county.
As the road is not owned by the county, it would use funds from its general levy to cover its part of the project costs. Keith Muetzel, Redwood Falls city administrator, said several years ago, there was an agreement that existed between the city and county regarding those streets around the courthouse.
When a seal coat project was conducted at that time the county did the crack sealing work, with the city covering the cost of the seal coating. The board approved an allocation of up to $219,000 for the project on a 3-2 vote, with commissioners Dennis Groebner and Lon Walling voting against the motion.
• Briefly discussed the idea of implementing a local sales tax option in the county for transportation purposes. The board heard that a one-half of one percent increase in the sales tax would generate approximately $700,000 annually for road work. A local option sales tax must be approved for a specific project and for a specified amount of time.
“I feel road funding is a state issue,” said Walling, adding he does not feel the state is doing its job.
The board decided to table the discussion and any potential decision for a future meeting.