Paynesville Press - August 6, 2003

Community Perspective

Public input needed for highway decision

By Jeff Bertram

As a member of the Highway 23 Task Force, I have attended numerous task force meetings, the public scoping meeting and open house, have held Chamber of Commerce meetings on the subject, and have tried to initiate opinions from many area residents.

I feel for anyone who has a perspective; you also have to explain where youıre coming from. My perspective comes from having been a resident of rural Paynesville all my life and now a city resident for over 18 years.

It is also from the perspective as chairman of the planning commission and president of the Chamber of Commerce and being part of a business that uses the road everyday. It also comes from being an advisory committee member and having been intimately involved with the Rockville-Cold Spring-Richmond Highway 23 project, which is being done as we deal with our local highway plan.

One point, which was made at the open house and really hit home, was that there can be different opinions, and people should be able to respect those different views and use them to formulate the best alternative. If you think of any situation you may have had to deal with, whether personal or in business, some honest bloodletting gave way to a workable, good situation long term for most people involved.

The biggest misconception is that we as a community do not have any say in what happens. This is TOTALLY FALSE. We do have a say ­ but if we donıt make a decision ­ someone else will. If someone participates in these discussions coming from a personal view only, a plan which can work for the community as a whole will not be found. There donıt have to be ³winners and losers.² There can be better options and workable ones.

If we wait 20 plus years to make something happen, we will have missed an opportunity for our children and grandchildren, and our community will not prosper to the potential it has.

To date, less than 100 people have given their opinions on Highway 23. Recently, several ideas have been raised which really make some potential sense to me. Creating a three-lane road through town ­ short term. Having the current route designated as a business route if a bypass would be constructed. Installing a stoplight at the main entrance/exit to Paynesville if a bypass is chosen. These are a few of the different ideas brought to us which do have, in my opinion, some merit.

Please share your thoughts with a task force member. They are: Paul Evans, Paynesville Area Chamber of Commerce; John Janotta, high school principal; Don Otte, Stearns County Commissioner; Jeff Thompson, mayor of Paynesville; Dave Peschong, city council member in Paynesville; Don Pietsch, supervisor for Paynesville Township; Peter Jacobson, president of the Koronis Lake Association; Ed Gottwald, resident-at-large (township); Joe Kremer, resident-at-large (city); Steve Helget, city administrator for Paynesville; Mike Flanders, Roseville Township; and myself, a resident-at-large for the city.

Please give us your constructive thoughts now, not when the project is being designed and constructed.

In the coming months, a decision must be made, and it should be made with as much input as possible. Then we, as a community, can begin to plan for the future knowing our destiny. The challenge will be: Can we discuss those options with the interest of our community as a whole at the center of that decision?

Jeff Bertram is the president of the Paynesville Area Chamber of Commerce and a former legislator

Would you like to participate as a Community Perspective writer? Do you have an opinion about the future route of Highway 23 through or around Paynesville? Call Michael Jacobson at 320-243-3772 or e-mail him at to express interest and get included on the schedule.

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