by Heather Reinhart
A planned construction project along Second Street West in Zimmerman has drawn opposition from property owners along that stretch of roadway, and they made their voices heard during the open forum at Monday night’s Zimmerman City Council meeting.
The project includes repairing pipes under the road and widening the road to 38 feet, which will include parking lanes along both sides of the street. Property owners in attendance on May 1 said there is no need for those parking lanes as there are rarely cars parked alongside the road now. They also voiced concerns about regular speeding and littering along that road and believe widening the road will only make things worse.
Derek Booth, a resident of Second Street West, started a petition against the road improvement project and said that every person on the road (except one) signed it. He said they don’t want it and they can’t afford it. Booth said his property is valued at about $50,000 and he was assessed $9,000 for the road work.
“I can’t afford that,” he said. “I’m on a fixed income. This will put a serious strain on me.”
“I don’t think it’s going to improve our property enough to warrant the cost,” added Margaret Vogtlin, who said she would be losing some trees, a lilac bush and a flower garden by the widening of the road.
Booth shared safety concerns due to regular speeding along the road and said children and the elderly often walk along the road because it is close to both the elementary school and Guardian Angels.
“It’s already really bad and it’s only going to get worse,” he said while pointing out that widening the road is unnecessary.
“If this goes through, there’s going to be more pavement than grass in front of my house.”
Bud Maliongas, who has lived along Second Street West for 14 years, shared safety concerns related to the constant speeding and said whiskey bottles are consistently found tossed on the roadway. He requested more police presence.
“If you’d like to come sit in my picture window, you’d see it,” he said, adding that on many occasions speeding vehicles have driven off the road and onto lawns and into trees. He said a neighbor’s house was hit by a car once. “It’s horrendous. If we get the road closer to the homes, everyone’s in danger.”
Maliongas also suggested adding sidewalks on both sides of the street instead of parking lanes.
Resident Dennis Booth asked the board to consider repairing a different street first to give everyone more time to consider the project.
“It just came up way too quickly,” he said. “We would have liked more of a chance to review things.”
Resident Bob Lahmers pointed out that there have been many cases of damage to property from cars driving too fast and going off the roadway.
“It is a residential street and we don’t want it to feel more like a highway by widening it for parking that isn’t necessary,” he said.
Ernie Post, who lives on the corner of Second Street West, said that with the added parking lanes, he doesn’t know how he will access his garage, which sits parallel to the road. He said once the road is reconstructed, he would have to do a U-turn to get into it, which would be particularly difficult if cars were parked in the new parking lanes.
The City Council members listened to all speakers but noted that the open forum period was simply a time to listen and no action was taken during the meeting.
With regards to the road work in general, Mayor Dave Earenfight said that the road is being widened in preparation for future development. The underground infrastructure was place in the ground in 1972, meaning the sewer pipes are more than 45 years old and need to be replaced before they begin to fail. He said it makes more sense to reconstruct the road now, when it will be torn up to replace the underground services, instead of tearing the road up a second time to widen it at a later date. Earenfight said that the recent bids have been favorable and the city has saved a significant amount of money by having the work done now.