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Paynesville Press - April 19, 2006

South Street residents back park, protest sidewalk to council

By Michael Jacobson

South Street residents expressed support for the South Street Park to the Paynesville City Council last week and also protested the sidewalk to be constructed during this year's street improvement project.

The council assured the residents - including several that lived on adjoining streets but used the South Street Park - that the city had not made any decision about the park.

In response to the South Street residents who did not want the sidewalk added to their street, the council agreed to move the street three feet to the north but opted to keep the sidewalk. Actually, during the course of the discussion, after hearing about students walking on the section of Pomeroy Avenue to be reconstructed this summer, the council reconsidered the decision not to add a sidewalk on Pomeroy and referred this question again to the public works committee.

South Street Park
A dozen or so residents attended the council meeting in support of South Street Park, expressing their desire to keep the park open. A handful spoke to the council during a discussion that lasted 20 minutes.

City officials maintained that no decision has been made about the park, but councilor Jeff Bertram, who suggested at a recent council meeting that the city possibly should sell the lot, maintained that the city might not have resources to develop new parks like the 14-acre Ampe Park, proposed to circle the city wells, and smaller parks like the South Street Park, which sits on the corner of South Street and Morningside Avenue.

Chrystal Hukriede, who lives on Morningside Avenue, asked the council to take a deeper look because South Street Park does get used by the neighborhood children. "It may look like just a swing and a slide, but it means a lot to the kids," she said.

"We appreciate the park," added Dusty Veldkamp, who also lives on Morningside Avenue. "That park is an asset to the neighborhood."

Pam Ruhoff, another resident of Morningside Avenue, urged the city to keep South Street Park, which is the perfect size for her toddlers, and to develop Ampe Park, which might have more attractions for teenagers.

Hukriede agreed that keeping both parks would be optimal. "Getting rid of green space to gain green space doesn't seem to be the answer," she said.

The council thanked the residents for coming to the meeting and expressing their opinions and reiterated that no decision had been made about South Street Park. Mayor Jeff Thompson urged the residents to stay vocal, since a decision about South Street Park might be made by a future council.

J.B. Wimmer, a member of the city park board, also thanked the residents for their input, saying that the committee does not get very much input about South Street Park or Maple Street Park. He also urged any interested community members to come to park board meetings on the second Thursday of each month at 12 noon at city hall.

Bertram, at the end of the discussion, said that maybe the city should pursue more smaller parks, instead of larger ones like Ampe Park (14 acres). "We can't do both," he said. "We can't have bigger parks and lots of smaller parks."

Interim city administrator and public works director Ron Mergen said the city does have a preliminary concept plan for Ampe Park, currently including baseball, softball, and soccer fields; picnic shelters; horseshoe pits; a sand volleyball court; frisbee golf; trails; and kids' playground. A public information meeting and hearing will be held before this park plan is finalized, Mergen added.

South Street
Sixteen residents of South Street presented the city council with a petition asking that the sidewalk planned for South Street be moved back to the north side or be omitted from the project.

The council explained the city's sidewalk policy, which is basically to build a sidewalk wherever practical and wherever warranted. With South Street being a main through-street - and with additional pedestrian traffic expected when the Ampe Park is completed - they were reluctant not to install a sidewalk on South Street.

Police chief Kent Kortlever also said that, for pedestrian safety, sidewalks are good, though he acknowledged that they do require work by residents to keep clear. Residents are not assesses for sidewalks, which are paid for by the city, but they are responsible for clearing the section of sidewalk adjoining their property (or can be billed if city personnel have to clear their sidewalk).

Mergen explained that while the sidewalk had been discussed on both sides, when it came to the design it became clear that the south side was a better location. Moving the sidewalk to the north side would require keeping the power poles on the South Side, which would result in the loss of many trees.

South Street resident Donna Schmiginsky told the council that the new alignment of the street did not seem fair to the residents on the south side, who were losing great chunks of their lawns while residents on the north side lost very little. She urged the council members to look at the stakes in their yards. "That's why we're here. It just doesn't seem fair that we're losing half our yards when the other side loses an inch," she said.

In response, Mergen said that the public works committee had met after receiving the petition and felt that South Street could be moved three feet to the north, which is not a lot but was something. The council later approved making this change.

During the discussion, the South Street residents also addressed school kids walking down Pomeroy Avenue to their bus stop, prompting the council to recommend that the public works committee reconsider if a sidewalk was needed for that street. A sidewalk was included for Pomeroy but later was removed after residents on that street questioned the need for it.

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