Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Dec. 27, 1999

Winsted council upholds alley ordinance

By Luis Puga

Winsted City Council opted to stick with the provisions of a previously passed alley ordinance Tuesday.

This was despite a request for an exception to the ordinance regarding an alley behind K-Way Express.

The issue over the alley concerns a trailer and truck that has been parked in the alley. According to the alley ordinance, the vehicles need to be removed to ensure access, since the alley is designated as improved.

However, family members of Leo Jacques asked the council to reconsider its stance on the issue. In a previous meeting, the council decided it would enforce its ordinance due to a request by a neighbor of Jacques, Eldron Hecksel, to remove the vehicles.

According to information relayed by City Administrator Aaron Reeves, the reason Jacques wanted the vehicles there was primarily due to the hardship of moving them.

But family members argued that the primary reason for moving the vehicles was for safety. According to the family, an addition was built on the property that made an entrance abut the alley.

The family argued it is a unique case since the entrance abuts the alley and is a living space, not a garage. The family said Jacques was permitted or sanctioned to put the entrance there by a previous city council in the 1950s.

The vehicles blocking the alley came later in response to persons driving through the alley at high speeds.

The family also argued that Hecksel, who they claim put in the request to enforce the alley ordinance to have access through both sides, could still access the alley through the south entrance. They also claimed the north entrance was more desirable as an access merely because their father maintained it and laid down gravel.

Lastly, they said they were concerned that Hecksel wanted access to the north side due to a commercial business he has in his garage and were concerned not only for the safety of their family's pedestrian traffic, but also that their father's home would be struck.

Council Member Jeff Albers maintained that the situation still involved an alley that required public access for everyone. He also questioned the likelihood of someone getting struck by a vehicle in the alley.

Despite this, the family maintained that safety was a primary consideration and that the city was responsible for allowing the house to be built the way it was many years back.

To this, City Attorney Fran Eggert did not reply as to whether the claim had merit, but simply that individuals do try to hold cities liable in such instances.

One solution proposed was that the city abandon part of the alley, the section which Jacques keeps his vehicles on. However, this is complicated by the fact that gas and power lines run under the alley and would have to be accessed by the major utilities.

Another proposal to limit the size of vehicles that could use the alley would be complicated by the fact that the family feels that Hecksel will be moving large vehicles through the alley for his business. This would result in the alley being rutted by the weight of the vehicle and pose a safety concern again.

Since the utilities will probably have large vehicles needed for work on the lines, that suggestion was shot down.

Eggert suggested that the council not decide the issue that evening, but rather gather all parties involved and any neighbors who might be affected by the decision, and have all of them state their case at once. He felt this would prevent the council from having to continually revisit the issue time and again.

However, Albers felt that the council should simply stick to its ordinance as stated. As such, he motioned to leave the ordinance stand which was unanimously approved.

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