Parallel or angle
Whether there will be parallel parking or angle (diagonal) parking on two blocks of Main Street in downtown Blue Earth is yet to be decided.
Or, it could end up being parallel on one side, diagonal on the other.
But whatever the decision is, it needs to be made soon, the council learned.
At last Monday night’s Blue Earth City Council meeting, there were several downtown business owners present to give their opinion on the matter. And, they informed the council they wanted to keep angle parking on both sides of the street, just as it is now.
The two blocks of Main Street, between Fifth and Seventh streets, is slated to be reconstructed next summer, complete with new underground utility services, new pavement and new sidewalks.
During a work session before the actual meeting began, the council had discussed the issue of parking and heard a recommendation from their street committee.
“We had four options to start with,” said Russ Erichsrud, a council member who also serves on the street committee. “They were diagonal on both sides, parallel on both sides or a combination of both, with parallel on one side and diagonal on the other.”
A fourth plan involved closing off Sixth Street as Main Street crosses it.
However, Erichsrud said the committee did not think that plan was functional, and they had heard from Faribault County engineer Mark Daly who said he would not sign off (say OK to) the plan for diagonal parking on both sides.
“So that got us down to two plans, one with parallel on two sides, or the one with diagonal and parallel both,” Erichsrud said. “If we do both, we recommend putting parallel on the west side and diagonal on the east side, because of the traffic at the post office.”
However, when the business owners came for the regular meeting, they told why they felt angle parking on both sides is necessary.
Spokesman for the group, Jack Heinitz, said the business people favor redoing the street, but want to keep the angle parking that is already in place.
“Our customers, many of whom are older, tell us they just will not parallel park,” Heinitz told the council. “We sent out 20 surveys to downtown businesses and got 13 back and all 13 want to keep the angle parking in order to not lose customers.”
When the business people heard the county engineer would not allow diagonal parking on both sides of the street, they questioned why.
“I thought the state approved us to have diagonal parking on both sides of the street,” one business owner said. “Why isn’t this going to happen?”
City engineer Wes Brown explained what happened.
“The state did approve our application for a variance,” Brown said. “However, the county engineer has the final say because they (the county) are paying for the project using state aid funds. Mr. Daly (county engineer) feels it is a safety issue.”
After some of the business people questioned why the City Council was not fighting to get the diagonal parking, the council agreed to contact the county.
“This is the first I have heard of this (the county engineer saying he would not approve diagonal parking),” said Faribault County commissioner Greg Young, who was in attendance at the meeting Monday night. “He has not talked to the commissioners about this.”
Young said the commissioners could bring this up at their next meeting, but the council said they needed to make a decision as soon as possible. Otherwise the project could be delayed until later next summer.
City Engineer Brown said they are now shooting for February bid openings with a May or June start to the project.
“If we delay this too long (a decision) it might not get started until July and that could cause the work to not get done in one summer,” Brown said.
After the meeting, the Faribault County Register has learned that there will be a special emergency meeting of the County Board on Tuesday, Sept. 29, at 7:30 a.m.
The express purpose of the meeting is to discuss the Main Street parking issue. County engineer Mark Daly is expected to be there. Members of the Blue Earth City Council will also be in attendance.