BY STARRLA CRAY
WINSTED, MN After about an hour’s worth of public input Oct. 6, Winsted City Council members decided to move forward with “preparation of plans” for the proposed improvement project on Kingsley Street.
“We will take everyone’s concerns into consideration, and there will be another opportunity in the future to give input,” Council Member Tom Ollig said.
Council Member Max Fasching abstained from the vote, later explaining that he is not opposed to the project itself, but has concerns about adverse impacts to a couple of properties in particular along Kingsley Street. He said he hopes plans can be modified to alleviate these issues.
Lifelong Winsted resident Peggy Lenz, who owns property on South Shore Drive near Kingsley, voiced a similar sentiment at Tuesday’s public hearing.
“I think it’s the right direction,” she said. “I think it needs to be fine-tuned so doesn’t affect property owners as much.”
Issues Kingsley Street residents spoke about included damage to driveways, trees, and shrubs, concerns about snow removal, questions about the cost of the project, opposition to the trail, and concern about loss of yard space.
Kristen Vaughan, for example, who lives on a corner Kingsley lot, asked if the two trees in her front yard that hold her hammock would be removed.
City engineer Jake Saulsbury responded that if the trees are in the way, they would be cut down and replaced.
Vaughan later asked if street parking could be eliminated from the plan, and Saulsbury said yes, it potentially could be.
“Everything is an option,” Ollig added.
Although the trail along the lake side of Kingsley Street is a small portion of the total project cost, it was a popular topic of conversation Tuesday.
The total estimated trail cost is $136,950, with an estimated $100,000 being paid through a grant from the Department of Natural Resources.
Some people were opposed to the trail due to cost and interference with existing trees, while others were supportive.
Keeping pedestrians off the road was one benefit people noted.
“I do think it’s a safety issue,” commented Winsted Area of Commerce Vice President Sarah Fasching, adding that especially for young children, she’d feel better having a trail to access Southview Park.
Kingsley Street resident Gary Baum said people seem to drive too fast on Kingsley, and suggested extra patrols in that area instead of a trail.
Police Chief Justin Heldt said that when this has been done, not very many vehicles are found breaking the law.
“It appears to be a lot faster, but I can assure you, in our squad cars with certified radar detector, they‘re not going over the speed limit,” he said.
What is the proposed project?
The Kingsley Street project design hasn’t been finalized yet, and Winsted officials said they plan to take citizens’ concerns into consideration as plans are made.
The project as presented by city engineer Jake Saulsbury Tuesday evening is summarized below:
• 32-foot street width, including 8-foot parking on the west side.
• Curb and gutter on both sides of the road, and a bituminous trail on the lake side.
• Removal of the existing sidewalk and most of the existing trees on the west side.
• Replacement of lift station forcemain, and sanitary sewer manholes.
• Future sewer main lining project.
• Replacement of watermains, hydrants, and gate valves.
• Replacement of the storm sewer; addition of more catchbasins, maintenance of lake outlet locations, and option to install a treatment unit at Rosalie Avenue intersection.
• Cost: About $1.5 million. Assessable amounts per affected property (22 private properties and two city properties) range from $158 to $841 per year for 15 years. The majority of the cost would be shared by all city taxpayers.
Why is the project being considered?
Key Kingsley Street area issues identified by city engineering firm Bolton & Menk include:
• Existing pavement and drainage is in poor condition.
• Pavement is more than 45 years old.
• Poor pedestrian connectivity to Southview Park and the Luce Line State Trail.
• Undersized watermain, and a high incidence of watermain breaks.
• Inadequate available water flow for fire protection to surrounding area.
• Sanitary sewer manholes and lift station forcemain in poor condition.
A variety of viewpoints were expressed during the Kingsley Street project public hearing portion of the Oct. 6 Winsted City Council meeting. Below are a few examples:
• Kingsley Street resident Kyle Grandahl: “My wife and I are against the Kingsley Street improvement project as it was presented.” Grandahl stated he is particularly opposed to the idea that the bike trail alongside Winsted Lake will help revitalize the downtown business climate. “For every dollar spent, there should be a calculated risk and return.”
• Council Member Tom Ollig: “Not everything can be calculated risk and return. Part of what we do as a city council is provide a vision and quality of life in the community. There are a lot of people who are very much in favor of the trail.”
• City engineer Jake Saulsbury: “In my opinion, the biggest benefit of the trail is independent from the downtown. Kingsley is a high-traffic area, and to me, the biggest benefit is safety.”
• Jack Littfin, Winsted business owner who lives on the other side of Winsted Lake: “I’m about the farthest resident from Kingsley in the whole town of Winsted, but I am a pretty good taxpayer.” He noted that he sees people walking along the lake on a daily basis. “I think it’s a great asset for the community, and I hope the city goes ahead and votes this thing through.”
• Winsted Area Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Campbell: “I commend the city for knowing that it’s important to connect the trail to the downtown. . . If it’s Kingsley or somewhere else, so be it.” He spoke about business growth that was a direct result of the Dakota Rail Regional Trail in St. Bonifacius.
• Kingsley Street resident Phyllis Kasper: “It’s going to ruin my driveway. . . We don’t see it as an improvement.”
• Kingsley Street resident Dave Mochinski: “I’m here because I‘d rather see all the trees and boulevards stay in place. You’re going to make this street look like a tornado came through.”
• Kingsley Street resident Gary Baum: “This is a big waste of time and money, and to tear those trees down is heartbreaking.”