MARSHALL - Members of the Marshall City Council faced a nearly full gallery Tuesday night, as residents affected by planned improvement projects on several city streets spoke out during a trio of public hearings. High Street residents were united in requesting one-way traffic or other safety measures be put in place on their street.
The council held public hearings on four separate street and utility projects planned for this year. The projects include street reconstruction and replacement of sewer and water lines on Kossuth Avenue, South High Street, West Lyon Street and North 7th Street, and Walker Lane and Park Avenue. Public informational meetings have been held for the affected property owners in each project, said Marshall Public Works Director Glenn Olson.
The council ordered plans to be prepared for all four projects, but also heard comments from residents and homeowners, including a group of High Street homeowners. Property owners said they had several concerns, most importantly about safety. Traffic in the neighborhood has been getting heavier and faster in recent years, they said. High Street resident George Seldat said he's noticed more people using the street as a shortcut to the YMCA or shopping on the south end of town. Seven different residents asked the city to consider making High Street a one-way street, or looking at ways to reduce the speed of cars passing through the neighborhood.
Olson said city staff members weren't currently recommending one-way traffic in the High Street project. However, if the council ordered preparation of plans, it would still be possible for city commissions to look into the request, he said.
Some High Street residents also had questions regarding utility updates for the west side of the street. Those properties are currently served by utilities running under the alley on the west side of High Street, not by the utilities under the street itself. Olson said Marshall Municipal Utilities recommended installing new water main services, up to a curb stop on the west side of the street, so those homeowners could acquire hookups to the new main.
After the hearing, council members voted 5-2 in favor of the High Street project, with council members Charlie Sanow and Jennie Hulsizer voting against the proposal.
Later in Tuesday's meeting, the council moved forward another step in the process of evaluating hazardous conditions in the vacant Marshall Hotel building. Olson said the city had received two proposals to investigate the structural integrity of the hotel building and the walls it has in common with adjacent structures.
Although it was unusual, Olson said he actually recommended the city accept the more costly of the two proposals, from Paulsen Architects of Mankato. While the Paulsen proposal for examining and reporting on the building came to a total of about $14,000, Olson said it was more detailed. It outlined more of the services the city was looking for, including giving court testimony on the investigation results.
The hotel building was the subject of a lawsuit brought against the city by the building's owner, Joseph Bot in 2009. Olson, Marshall City Attorney Dennis Simpson and city council members all said they anticipated any future action on the property would end up in court as well.
Council member Mike Boedigheimer had some criticism for the proposal. Several of the services offered were simply checking parts of the structure to see if they met building codes.
"I can tell you right now it's not going to be up to code," he said.
Olson said it would be necessary to analyze what would need to be done to bring the building up to code. Furthermore, Simpson said, it would be a good idea for the city to build up documentation on the building's condition.
"We had better be as well-prepared as we can," Simpson said.
Marshall City Administrator Ben Martig said the structural analysis would be an eligible use for Tax Increment Financing funds.
The council voted 6-1 in favor of accepting the proposal, with Boedigheimer casting the lone vote against.