Council gives go-ahead for plan to improve pedestrian crossing of Hwy 64 in city
A proposed crosswalk project by the Medford Morning Rotary Club got a green light from members of the Medford City Council at Monday’s committee of the whole meeting.
The plan calls for the club and city to share in the cost of installing pedestrian activated signs that will alert motorists of pedestrian intent to cross Hwy 64 with a button-activated LED flashing light mounted on a pole with a pedestrian crossing sign.
While state law requires motorists to yield to pedestrians wanting to cross the road at crosswalks, the pedestrians are required to show intent by stepping into the road. “Who wants to step into the street?” Wellner said of the danger of simply starting to walk into the road like the law seems to require.
The proposed crossing signs will allow pedestrians to alert motorists of their intent to cross and give them time to cross.
Alderman Clem Johnson questioned if any tickets have been issued for failure to stop for pedestrians. Police Chief Chad Liske said law enforcement finds out after the fact and because they are not there to see it have a hard time writing tickets.
“If there are no teeth then what’s the use,” Johnson said, noting that while he supports the efforts for the crossing signs, he feels there should be additional enforcement by police. Wellner said the signs would help with enforcement because if the signs were on, it would show the intent to cross the road.
The proposal outlined by Ben Koch of the Rotary Club, is to install the signs at the following four intersections:
_ 4th Street to provide access for students at Medford Area Middle School, Immanuel Lutheran School, Little Lambs daycare and others.
_ Whelen Ave. to provide a central point for downtown business, the city park and Riverwalk.
_ Washington Ave. to provide access for students going to Holy Rosary School, Sandbox Childcare Center, and the city park.
_ Joan St. to provide access to the high school and elementary school complex, businesses and the bike path.
Alderman Greg Knight questioned why 7th Street wasn’t on the list. He said there are many walkers who cross at 7th Street year round.
City coordinator Joe Harris and Liske had worked with the Rotary Club on selecting the intersections. Liske expressed concern over the jogged intersection at 7th and Hwy 64 and said it would take signs at both areas to allow crossing.
Harris also raised concerns about the queuing distance for cars with it so close to the traffic lights on Hwy 13. He noted there are already times when people are attempting to turn at the intersection there where traffic backs up to the highway.
Koch said the decision to not have a crossing at Main Street is that it would have motorists stopping either going down or going up the hill which would be an issue.
Rotary club member Oralee Dittrich suggested a compromise on the 7th Street intersection could be to have a mid-block crossing by the entrance to the Medford Area Middle School parking lot driveway across from Immanuel Lutheran School.
It was noted that while that would be an ideal place given the location of the two schools and the amount of visibility on either side, Harris said the state will not allow a mid-block crossing on a state highway.
In their 27-page presentation, the Rotary Club included a proposed timeline that would have the signs installed in August 2021. The intent of this is to give the club time to do fundraisers and apply for grants through Rotary International.
The cost of the project is estimated between $26,000 and $30,000 depending on if there is power accessible at the locations or if they would need to use a solarpowered battery to run them. The cost is about $6,500 per linked pair of signs for wired signs and $7,500 per pair of linked signs for solar powered. The signs are linked either through a radio transmitter or a wire so that when the one sign is turned on the matching on the other side of the street also signals.
Harris suggested the city would look at having them wired to make maintenance easier in the future without having to worry about cleaning solar panels or changing batteries out every five or six years. The signs themselves are expected to last at least 15 years.
Under the Rotary Club’s proposal, they are asking the city to cover 25% of the project cost. However, Alderman Mike Bub suggested that given the public safety aspect they could go higher suggesting a 50/50 split. Alderman Christine Weix expressed concern about the timeline, noting that waiting until August to install them would eliminate an entire summer of walkers. She asked if there was a way the city could get them installed sooner while the Rotary Club was doing fundraising.
Rotary president Nathan Bilodeau said they put the timeline together expecting it to take more time for approval. Dittrich said the club may not know about the grant from International until August.
Harris said the city will work with Rotary on it and that there is the possibility of tapping into the city signage budget to cover the upfront costs. He also suggested they could also look at using some of the city’s undesignated reserve funds.
Wellner said the actual cost share breakdown and timeline are things that can be worked out. He said for now, he was looking for a motion from the council to allow the project to move forward with city staff continuing to work with the Rotary Club to finalize a plan.
Aldermen agreed to recommending approval of the proposal and allowing the city and the Rotary Club to move forward. Final approval will come at a future city council meeting.
Delinquent utility bills
While COVID-19 protections for families prevented the city from turning off electric service this year, the city is able to recoup overdue utilities by putting it as a special assessment on the property owner’s taxes.
During a special council meeting Monday night, aldermen approved putting $17,287.86 in overdue utility payments on the tax bills. The delinquent amounts include: electric, fire protection, refuse/recycling, sewer and water. In addition, there are delinquent electric bills totaling $1,562.69 from town of Medford residents on the city electric lines.
As of Friday, there had been 24 delinquencies from tenants totally $7,275.38 and 21 delinquencies from homeowners totaling $10,012.48. City clerk Virginia Brost noted that people are coming in every day to pay their amounts to avoid having it put on their taxes. People on the list have until Nov. 15 to pay off the amounts before it goes to the courthouse to be put as an assessment on the parcel’s property taxes.
While the amount of the delinquencies is about three times higher than the $5,350 put on the tax rolls last year, electric utility manager Spence Titera said that overall it is a “good” number and could be far worse if they did not stay on top of the accounts.
“Spence and the electric utility are doing a yeoman’s job of getting them paid,” Wellner said, noting that historically there would be years where the total was $50,000 to $100,000 to be put on the taxes.
In other business aldermen:
_ Approved renewing with Security Health Plan for no increase from 2020 for 2021. Deductibles will remain at $2,000 for single and $4,000 for family. Premiums are $589 per month for single $1,090 per month for employee plus children, $1,296.22 per month for employee plus spouse and $1,767.57 for family.
_ Approved renewing with Delta Dental for no increase from 2020 premiums for 2021. The annual deductible is $50 for single, $100 for employee plus one and $150 for a family. Monthly premium is $35.41 for single and $96.74 for employee plus one and family.
_ Approved hiring Staab Construction to do a front entrance renovation at a cost not to exceed $23,000. The work includes installation of bulletproof glass at the front counter and the installation of a security door in the hallway that accesses the council chamber and staff offices in the building beyond the door to the mayor’s office.
_ Approved issuing a class A liquor license to Applegreen Midwest for the Marathon service station at 110 South 8th Street located at the Hwy 13 and Hwy 64 intersection.
_ Approved the purchase of a 660 Case Plow that will be used to install buried electrical conduit. The city will purchase the equipment from Taylor Electric Cooperative for $15,000.