EDITORIAL: REBUILD MAIN STREET
Given everything we learned at the Freeman City Council’s July 27 meeting, there should be no question of whether the city of Freeman should rebuild Main Street from the downtown business district all the way to the North County Road.
It absolutely should, and there’s no better time to move forward with what would be a major infrastructure project than now.
At its second regularly-scheduled meeting of July, Mayor Michael Walter urged the city council to spend down the growing sum of money in city reserves — $5.7 million —and said that there is no better place to use it than on improving the often-used downtown roadway that has become an eyesore.
Paved in 1953, Main Street has seen more than 60 years of traffic and dilapidation. The intersection of Main and Third near Mr. G’s Tires and Stucky’s Electric is a mess (the council has already taken steps toward improving that). One block to the north, just outside Black Widow Customs, patchwork has made the roadway bumpy and ugly. Further north, outside of the beautiful Freeman Public Library, a badly broken curb is a glaring reflection of how little attention the city has given to this part of town, and cracks and Band-Aid fixes can be seen extending all the way north toward the fire hall. It’s poor form and reflects badly on the city of Freeman, particularly since downtown is such a well-traveled, high-visibility part of Freeman.
All of that alone should be enough to justify what will end up being a multi-million dollar project. But extreme need is just one of the reasons why this is the right time to rebuild Main Street.
First off, the money is there. Walter made it clear that the city’s $5.7 million is doing no good just sitting in the bank.
“It’s too much money,” he reasonably told the council Monday night, suggesting that few cities have that kind of reserve — especially cities the size of Freeman. “You either spend it or you lower taxes. People want to see something done with their money.”
The mayor is absolutely right, as is councilor Blaine Saarie, who responded by saying that citizens “pay taxes to see improvements.”
Of course they do.
Furthermore, the city of Freeman is already sitting on a Main Street feasibility study conducted in 2013 that showed a rebuild of the roadway done in two phases over two years, from the North County Road to Railway and then from Railway to Fifth Street, for $2 million. That project was ultimately abandoned, leaving Main Street to further decay over the course of the ensuing seven years, and now this mayor and council must deal with what that means for today.
This is not the time to kick the can down the road. This is not the time for fixes here or there. Given all that has been stated, the city council should follow the mayor’s lead and actively pursue the project immediately.
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Eleven years ago, in 2009, the city of Freeman took on a $2.4 million capital project that saw the rebuild of Sixth Street all the way from Highway 81, through the curved Cherry Street jog, and Fifth Street west to Main. It took some discussion, cost the city some money and was an inconvenience for those passing through that part of town. But, today, traveling west and east through the Sixth Street corridor is a beautiful and inviting drive for residents and non-residents alike and reflects well on the city of Freeman.
A drive down Main Street should offer the same experience. The Freeman City Council can and should get this done, and soon.