Posted Nov. 24, 2015 at 6:09 PM
Updated Nov 24, 2015 at 6:48 PMBELVIDERE — City leaders are mulling options to escape a quagmire of miscommunication, poor planning and neighborhood backlash on a road project that turned a thoroughfare near the Boone County Courthouse into a one-way street.The city spent about $6,500 this fall to turn Menomonie Street into a one-way between Main and Webster streets and build islands that established angle parking for police cars. Neighbors say they don't want the changes and were never notified of the city’s intentions before construction began.Adding to neighbors' anger and confusion, aldermen never passed an ordinance to make the changes, leaving the project in legal limbo while construction crews worked under contract with the city. When construction finished in October, the road was not opened to traffic because of the unapproved ordinance, Public Works Director Brent Anderson said.At last week's City Council meeting, neighbors demanded that the city reverse the changes. Now they're questioning why the police station needed more parking stalls in the first place. Instead of tearing up Menomonie Street, neighbors say, non-officers could use a lot behind the Boone County Jail, which would make room in the front lot for police vehicles."I still think that we have completely sideswiped the whole issue to begin with," resident Susan Orr said at a Committee of the Whole meeting Monday. "We still have 35 empty parking places in that back lot behind the jail. We still have civilians parking in the lot next to the police station and patrol cars out in the street."I do not and cannot understand why this is even an issue, with all the empty parking places behind the jail. You have civilians, secretaries, detectives, dispatchers parking in the lot right next to the police station. I don't understand why the squad cars aren't there."Chief Jan Noble said the city doesn't have the authority to park there without permission from Boone County Sheriff Dave Ernest."By agreement 20 years ago, the city gave up its oversight of the (Public Safety Building) and gave that authority to the county," Noble said. "The assignment of the parking stalls typically comes with oversight from the sheriff. So I would have to grab the sheriff, sit down, go through this and see if that would even be an option for us."Anderson presented two construction options Monday that would maintain angled police parking on Menomonie while accommodating two-way traffic. The first, which would widen the street slightly to make room for an eastbound lane, would cost the city $2,320. The other, for more than $11,000, would more dramatically widen the street and add space for parallel parking on the north side of Menomonie in addition to angled police parking on the south side.A third option, costing $1,901, would essentially turn the street back to the way it was. But Noble was unwilling to entertain that option because it would eliminate extra parking stalls he says his police force needs."I would ask that the aldermen not lose track of why we're here," he said. "While I appreciate the input of people who live there, the parking of cars really should be a decision between your police chief and the sheriff, but I realize that we're here because that could not get resolved."Aldermen and Mayor Mike Chamberlain tabled discussion until Dec. 28 so Noble could explore alternative options with Ernest.Orr said all she and her neighbors want is two-way traffic on Menomonie."It keeps getting thrown around and we keep coming back," she said. "I'm just saying, utilize the parking lots before you start changing streets. I'm not happy that (Noble) said it was none of our business about the parking."