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Winnebago revisits stop sign motion

The council revokes motion to install stop signs along 4th Street

By Fiona Edberg - Staff Writer | Jul 18, 2021

Police Chief Eric Olson explained to the council that stop signs should be a last resort for addressing speeding.

The Winnebago City Council did not stop to dilly-dally at a meeting held Tuesday evening, July 13, at 7 p.m.

The council resumed discussion regarding the installation of stop signs around town. Though the council had originally decided to increase signage during their meeting on June 8, they backtracked on Tuesday due to feedback provided by Police Chief Eric Olson.

The discussion began with a public comment from citizen Jose Romero on June 8. Romero expressed concern regarding speeding he has noticed along Cleveland Avenue W.

“I watch from my deck and some of these cars are going way too fast,” said Romero at last month’s meeting. “I just want something done to avoid somebody getting hurt.”

The council took Romero’s concerns seriously, voting on June 8 to place stop signs along Fourth Street SW, and from Third Avenue SW to Cleveland Avenue.

However, Chief Olson shared concerns about the council’s decision at the Winnebago Utility Committee meeting held on June 30. He explained stop signs should be a last resort.

After receiving Olson’s feedback, the Utility Committee passed a motion recommending the city council withdraw their motion from June 8 regarding the installation of stop signs along Fourth Street, and instead just place a stop sign on the corner of Third Street and Sixth Street.

Olson was present at Tuesday’s City Council meeting to further clarify his recommendation.

“I was blindsided at the last meeting,” admitted Olson. He explained he has had more time to conduct research since then.  

Olson shared he has determined stop signs along Fourth Street SW would have little impact upon speeding.

“Putting stop signs along Fourth Street won’t stop traffic by the time it gets to a destination further down the road,” he explained. “I’d rather do other things before putting up a stop sign.”

Olson had several recommendations regarding strategies to reduce speeding. One strategy involved conducting speed studies.

“Jake [Skluzacek] sat on Cleveland for a while and did a speed study,” shared Olson. “In an hour-long period the highest speed he recorded was 33 miles per hour.”

Olson further explained even if higher speeds were observed, stop signs may not be effective in curbing reckless driving.

“We’d have to put stop signs at every intersection to solve the issue, and people would still speed between the stop signs,” he said.

Olson felt police surveillance, along with speed studies, would produce more effective results.

“We can have officers patrol streets more so we have more data to bring back to the council,” Olson offered. He also suggested pursuing grant money to install additional radar signs indicating a driver’s speed.

The council was receptive to Olson’s feedback.

“You’re the expert,” said council member Jean Anderson. “You’ve done all the research. I agree we should revoke this and try some other strategies first.”

Council member Paul Eisenmenger felt some of Olson’s proposed strategies are already making a difference.

“I have noticed the police presence over the past few weeks, and I’d like to believe it’s making a difference,” said Eisenmenger.  

Olson did recommend the installation of the stop sign on the corner of Third Avenue SW and Sixth Street SW due to visibility issues.

After discussion, the council voted to rescind the motion from last month’s meeting to install stop signs along Fourth Street. They also made a motion to install a stop sign at Olson’s recommended location.

Council member Calvin Howard also brought a new idea to the council for discussion.

Howard’s vision involves transforming run-down residential properties into new, affordable housing.

“At our last meeting, we had a surplus of $120,000 in our checking account,” Howard reminded the council. “I’d like to hear people’s thoughts about trying to invest that money into the community.”

Howard continued, “What if we tear down a house and replace it with a three-bathroom, two-bedroom home. Then, we can put the house up to be sold. Even if we just break even, we will still get tax revenue, and that plot of land will be put back into our community.”

Howard referenced the recent need to tear down several houses within the community. “Our population doesn’t increase when we just take out those houses,” he added.  

The council showed interest in Howard’s suggestion and deliberated about it at length.

“We need more housing,” Mayor Scott Robertson acknowledged. “There are many lots sitting empty, and they are prime building places.”

The council considered steps to take toward making Howard’s vision a reality.

“Habitat for Humanity has done this for years. Can we partner with them, or replicate their process?” suggested council member Tim Hynes.

“We could put out feelers to see if there’s any interest,” added Anderson. “We can see if there are local builders who are interested, and how much it will cost.”

As a concrete next step, city administrator Jake Skluzacek will inquire whether Winnebago’s Economic Development Authority would be willing to do an updated house study.

Other business discussed by the council includes: 

• A request by citizen Barry Marsh for the city to survey his property, South Lift Station, to establish where the boundaries of the lift station are. Bolton and Menk engineer Matt Cole suggested checking whether a survey of the property was conducted in 2007 before conducting a new survey.

• Updates regarding city construction work. Cole shared the NW Area Project is going well; most punch list items are completed, and now the remaining items to complete are lingering private service work.

• Quotes received for paving the area around the water plant. The council feels repaving is necessary due to safety issues gravel creates in the winter. Smith Concrete Construction submitted a quote of $7,095, while Richard L. Anderson Construction, LLC. submitted a quote of $8,168.

The council initially made a motion to accept Smith’s lower quote, but upon noticing Smith’s quote may not include rebar decided to table the decision until they can confirm the services Smith is offering.

• Updated hours for the Muir Library. Hours will be adjusted so the library is open from 2-7 p.m. on most weekdays. The library board feels there are few patrons during the library’s later hours from 7-9 p.m., and patrons may want to visit between 5-7 p.m. while coming home from work. The council voted to approve the suggested hours.