Posted Nov. 22, 2015 at 8:00 AM
Updated Nov 22, 2015 at 5:29 PMBELVIDERE — Recent construction intended to turn a thoroughfare near the Boone County Courthouse into a one-way street has neighborhood residents reeling.In September, the city decided to turn Menomonie Street into a one-way between Main and Webster streets to accommodate angle parking for city police cars, but neighbors say they were never notified of the city’s intentions and were not given an opportunity to voice their concerns before construction began."Evidently, if they’re going to change the neighborhood, they don’t have to tell you," resident Shirley Mills said. "They can just do what they want."Meanwhile, aldermen never approved an ordinance to make the changes, leaving the project in legal limbo while construction crews worked under contract with the city. The city spent about $6,500 to build islands that established angle parking. Construction finished in late October, but the road was not opened to traffic because of the unapproved ordinance, said Brent Anderson, director of Public Works.At last week's council meeting, a group of residents from the neighborhood demanded that the city take immediate action to open the street to two-way traffic again. The council obliged, voting unanimously against the lingering one-way ordinance so the city could review its options and draw up a plan to reverse changes to Menomonie Street."We will start over again to rectify the mess that’s been made," Mayor Mike Chamberlain said.Chamberlain and aldermen apologized during the meeting for fumbling communication with the neighborhood about the project before it began. Miscommunication among aldermen, police and residents left many confused about what kind of work was being done on Menomonie and why.On Sept. 8, aldermen voted unanimously to approve a motion from the Public Safety and Finance committees to close Menomonie Street so crews could break ground on the project. At the time, Chamberlain was in Europe consulting with civic leaders in sister cities on economic development strategies; 4th Ward Ald. George Crawford conducted the meeting in the mayor's absence.Some aldermen still blamed Chamberlain for the foul-up."That’s an excuse, but it’s really not a reason," Ald. Clinton Morris said. "If you put it on the agenda and it will affect people here and you’re overseas, then why not hold it off? There should be no blame that goes to the council. The council doesn’t run the day-to-day operations of the city. That’s the mayor."Chamberlain took responsibility for the miscue but said he trusted the council to make responsible decisions in his absence.
The city will review plans to change Menomonie back into a two-way street during a Committee of the Whole meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at Belvidere City Hall. Anderson said there are two options: pay for construction crews to restore the street's original configuration or explore whether the city can keep angled parking and still accommodate two-way traffic.
"The bottom line for the Police Department is, we need additional parking stalls for our police cars," Chief Jan Noble said. Noble said he'd prefer expanded parking at lots already used by police officers, but "parking on the street is what we may very well have to resort to."