NEW: CITY APPROVES MAIN STREET DESIGN
JEREMY WALTNER – PUBLISHER
The Freeman City Council moved closer toward finalizing its Main Street project last week by approving a design throughout the business district that features extended curbs that slope to zero grade at the intersections of Third and Main and Fourth and Main. The design also includes a 3 ½ foot strip of aggregate concrete as part of the sidewalk from Railway to Fifth that adds both a visual cue and a decorative element.
The council approved the design on a 4-2 vote after a lengthy discussion about snow removal and pedestrian safety. Charles Gering and Terry Jacobsen cast the “no” votes; Gering’s concern was primarily the challenge the new design would present plows after a snow event while Jacobsen questioned the safety of the curbs at the intersections, which protrude further into the roadway.
“I like the way it looks; that’s the only issue with the design I have,” he said. “I’m just not for the extended curbs.”
The action came at the council’s second meeting of the month on Tuesday, Oct. 19 that included an update from Paul Korn of Sayre Associates, the engineer behind the Main Street project. Korn told the council the construction plans were about 60% completed, but that engineers needed further direction from the council on the design for the business district that includes what has been called “streetscaping.”
It’s an issue that goes back to last spring, when Korn encouraged the city to consider additional design elements at its downtown intersections that would provide both aesthetic value and safety enhancements. But that generated concerns from both councilors and residents, which were explicitly shared at a public meeting in April.
The primary objections were cost, visibility, maintenance and what it would mean for snow removal.
In response, Mayor Michael Walter assembled a committee to take a closer look at the plan and come up with alternatives to address the concerns.
“That’s what compromise looks like,” Walter said at last week’s meeting, noting that the design presented to the council for consideration did not include vegetation and featured rounded edges at intersections as opposed to hard corners, making it easier for the plows to navigate.
“Is it different? Absolutely,” said Councilor Blaine Saarie, who was part of the streetscaping team. “(But) this is a proven design; we’re not the first. It’s just new (to us).”
“This is a very common design,” he said, although he acknowledged it’s different from what the city is used to. “There’s going to be a learning curve — a learning process to removing snow.”
He said the design will improve waterflow during a rain event and snowmelt so the moisture doesn’t pool by the curb, and the zero-grade intersections will make access to and from the storefronts much easier for those who have mobility issues.
Korn noted the width of the roadway between the extended curbs at the intersections is the same width as Sixth Street.
“It’s pretty generous,” he said.
And Carol Eisenbeis, the city’s marketing and development director who was part of the streetscaping committee’s discussions, said the aggregate concrete dresses up the business district.
“In addition to adding a visual cue,” she said, “the streetscaping team was also looking for an inexpensive way to add an aesthetic element so when we’re all done the street doesn’t just look like a brand-new 1953 street.”
After a discussion among the councilors and questions and answers with Korn, Saarie made a motion for council action.
“We put a lot of consideration into this,” he said. “I feel comfortable with this and make a motion that we accept this plan as stated.”
The motion was seconded by Lonnie Tjaden and ultimately passed 4-2 without further discussion.
In two separate motions, the council also agreed to purchase and maintain new, historically designed light polls and fixtures for installation from Railway to Fifth Street, and also to have Sayre Associations draw up specs for the reconstruction of both Third and Fourth streets one block to the east and west of Main Street. That option would be included as a bid alternative for the council to consider.
Both of those motions passed.
Korn told the council the goal is to have the construction documents completed by the middle of December for final approval, with bids going out by the end of January or early February.