By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN “Oh that four-letter word that always lures us in free,” Winsted resident Dave Gailey said as he addressed the Winsted City Council at Tuesday’s meeting.
The “free” Gailey was referring to was the McLeod County Road 116 turnback project more specifically, the sidewalk portion of the project being paid for by the county.
The turnback project was back on the council’s agenda because of a request by 12 residents, including Gailey who lives at 321 3rd St. N., who brought a petition to the council asking to remove the addition of sidewalk along 3rd Street north and south from the project.
Only the sidewalk and removal of trees were discussed. The rest of the county’s turnback project, which includes a street overlay and replacement of storm sewers, was not part of the citizens’ complaints.
Gailey was one of several residents who spoke, telling the council the front yards along 3rd Street N. are not large enough to put a sidewalk through. Some of the residents would not even be able to park their vehicles in their driveway without being in the sidewalk’s path, according to Gailey.
“I feel that when you allowed the houses to be built so close to the road on 3rd Street, you gave up the right for a sidewalk. If there was ever any plan for a sidewalk, they should have put it in there at that time,” Gailey said.
Gailey told the council that anyone who wanted to walk on sidewalk could walk along 1st Street and take the sidewalk down to the promenade. From there, they can walk down Main Avenue or Kingsley on sidewalk. Another option Gaily gave was going north or south through Winsted on 2nd Street, which has sidewalk the entire way.
Charles Remer, at 116 3rd Street S., said he definitely did not want a sidewalk in his front yard because he didn’t want to lose all of the mature trees that would have to be removed for the sidewalk to go through.
“I worked for the city for years and we planted a lot of those trees that are 30 and 40 years old,” Remer said, “and now, they want to cut them down to put in a sidewalk that nobody wants. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Both Gailey and Remer received applause after they spoke to the council.
Amy Fritz, who lives at 210 3rd Street N., told the council she prefers to walk and run in the streets rather than use the sidewalks because she finds the sidewalks are dangerous because some of them haven’t been taken care of.
Fritz also told the council there wasn’t enough traffic or walkers that use 3rd Street to benefit from sidewalk.
City Engineer Jake Saulsbury commented that the public school was hoping for the sidewalk because it would generate more pedestrian traffic and have more of the children walking to school.
Saulsbury also said that there are a total of 11 blocks of sidewalk in the turnback project, and only two blocks where the yards are smaller.
Council Member Dave Mochinski asked everyone attending if there was anyone there who was in favor of the sidewalk, and drew no response.
Saulsbury said the sidewalk system could be divided into three sections to keep it a connective system. The logical breaking points would be north from Baker Avenue to Main Avenue; from Main Avenue to Albert; and from Albert Avenue to Linden Avenue.
“I wouldn’t recommend to the council to take out a block here or there,” Saulsbury said.
Saulsbury reminded everyone that the final designs had been approved and Bolton & Menk was supposed to give draft plans to the county by the end of the month. By July 6, the council was to give authorization to advertise for bids.
“I am against the whole sidewalk project,” Mochinski said. “They might want to do something different by the school, but for sure, not in front of these residences. I wouldn’t want to live there and have that done to my house, and nobody here sitting at this table that I know would either. Definitely not in front of all of these residences.”
Council Member Bonnie Quast suggested a compromise; start the sidewalk from Linden Avenue running south past the care center and the school and continue past the cemetery area, where it will meet sidewalk running east and west along Andy Avenue.
From Andy Avenue to Baker, the sidewalk on 3rd Street could be deleted from the project.
“I have been on this council for 20 years and I always felt that I was on the council to serve the citizens of Winsted. You came, we heard you, and we are trying to act on your behalf,” Quast said.
There was applause after Quast spoke.
The council agreed with Quast.
Approval for Quast’s suggestion was unanimous by the council, which deleted the sidewalks from the turnback project south of Andy Avenue on 3rd Street.