The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Residents air concerns about "Streetscape"

By Sally Day for the Quill

In a sometimes heated discussion, Oquawka residents met and talked with MSA Engineers, Steve Haring and Jared Fluhr on Monday, February 4, 2013, just prior to the village board meeting.

During the informational meeting, residents were invited to voice their concerns about the Schuyler Street "Streetscape" Project. Village Board Trustees Cindy Henry, Nancy Bundy, Todd Shinberger, Troy Jern, and Jason Howard were also present, but not in an official capacity.

Haring said the village has been working on the "Streetscape" Project for two years and it has not been let out to bid yet. Fluhr noted that the project included storm sewers, sidewalk improvement, and the street itself. He added that the project has outside funding from IDOT, USDA Rural Development and Senator Sullivan, etc. which will net approximately $551,000.

Fluhr added that the water main will be replaced from Front Street to 6th Street, and that the 2 lane street will be made with 7 inch concrete, while the parking spaces will be 6 inch concrete.

Two displays were featured in the front of the room, showing the plans of the project. Obvious "bump outs" were designed and in the plans, for functionality to allow water to drain properly. Here is one definition of bump outs: "A stormwater bumpout is a vegetated curb extension that protrudes into the street either mid-block or at an intersection, creating a new curb some distance from the existing curb. A bumpout is composed of a layer of stone that is topped with soil and plants. An inlet or curb-cut directs runoff into the bumpout structure where it can be stored, infiltrated, and taken up by the plants (evapotranspiration). Excess runoff is permitted to leave the system and flow to an existing inlet. The vegetation of the bumpout will be short enough to allow for open sight lines of traffic. Aside from managing stormwater, bumpouts also help with traffic-calming, and when located at crosswalks, they provide a pedestrian safety benefit by reducing the street crossing distance."

The majority of residents present were very much against the bump outs, claiming they would reduce parking spaces and that cars would run into them, causing damage to the cars. The engineers explained that some of the bump outs may be necessary to receive some of the funding. They also explained that when people are driving cautiously the bump outs are not a problem and further stated that the bump outs are designed to allow little or no damage to cars if they should drive over them.

Some residents were in favor of the greenery added by the designs and thought it to be very aesthetic. Many of the residents disagreed with this saying that nothing would grow in this sand based soil and asked who would maintain the "grassy areas." It was discussed that stones or river rock might be placed in the area allowed for grass and soil in the bump outs. Some residents thought this would lead to children throwing rocks from these areas.

The main concern was that of parking spaces. Business owners, Ron and Sue Bigger, Don and Laurie Millard were very concerned about this issue. They mentioned there were not many places to park to begin with and this would eliminate more parking spaces. Additional business owners asked questions about curbing, parking and snow plowing.

Haring agreed to look at all these concerns and to hold additional meetings. Board member Todd Shinberger said, "I feel we owe the business owners that." Board member Troy Jern added, "I am glad to hear everyone's concerns."

The village board meeting began at 7 p.m.

Haring remained at the meeting, stating, "We had an open meeting here earlier pertaining to the 'Streetscape'. The room was full and it was a good discussion." He continued, "The major concerns were parking, the grocery store parking lot, the grass concept, bump outs at corners need to be eliminated or reduced back to 45 degrees (from 60 degrees), and widening of the sidewalk." Fluhr agreed to meet with business people and to hold a special meeting. Haring said the board needed to pass the following measures, which they did: A letter of assurance; proclaiming the new road a Class II truck route; and a TARP agreement.

In conjunction with this topic, resident Steve Lumbeck asked, "What are the interest rates on this project, and will there be a tax increase?" Shinberger explained they won't know the interest rate until they know the bottom dollar of the project. Lumbeck also asked why the street was being constructed so heavy. He was told because of the traffic to and from the grain elevator. Ron Bigger added, "They (the grain elevator) should not be left off the hook; they should be approached by the board." Board member Nancy Bundy said, "They are not being overlooked; we are looking into this."

In other topics, Police Chief Brad Mowen was present and gave the board his report for January 2013. There were 45 service calls during the month and six arrests. Mowen also asked the board if they would agree to pay 50 percent for his body armor, which the Henderson County Board had paid the other half. The final cost to the village board would be $196.97. The armor normally costs $700.

Kim Gaston, a consultant representative from Risk Management Insurance introduced herself to the board and asked if they had any questions for her. One of the things her company does is to reduce work related injuries.

Also present was Stacy Lumbeck, to discuss 2013 Heritage Trail Days. She explained to the board that the Heritage Trail Days Committee was asking for a representative from Oquawka. There will be only one person selected to represent each town or village in the county. She asked for a name by April 1.

In other business, the Board: