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Delano City Council addresses pedestrian, motorist safety
April 6, 2018

BY GABE LICHT
Editor

DELANO, MN – Highway and crosswalk issues were the primary drivers of discussion and action at Tuesday’s Delano City Council meeting.

The council approved flashing left-turn signals for two locations on Highway 12, approved safety improvements to the crosswalk at Wright County Road 30 and Highland Hills Road, discussed renaming County Road 30 between County Line Road and County Road 17, tabled a request for a crosswalk at Seventh Street and Johnson Drive, among other business.

Left-turn signals
“The state is requesting authorization to proceed with installing flashing left-turn signals at the Tiger Drive and County Line Road intersections with Highway 12,” City Administrator Phil Kern said. “All work would be done by MnDOT.”

He explained part of the rationale for the timing of the improvements.

“They have a detour planned through Delano,” Kern said, referencing the alternative route for Highway 55 traffic between Buffalo and Rockford during the summer months. “There will be traffic routed here. At least the signed detour will be through Delano. They want that in place by the time they do that project. It falls under the policy for funding safety projects.”

The city’s funding share is $28,551.

Council members noted that the improvements could prevent drivers from turning onto other streets before the stoplights to avoid them, with more than one council member admitting to that practice.

Hidden Hills crosswalk
Assistant City Engineer Shawn Louwagie presented four options for addressing the Hidden Hills Road crosswalk across County Road 30, as discussed by county staff, city staff, and community members after one child was struck by a vehicle and at least one other was nearly struck due to motorists attempting to pass stopped vehicles on the shoulder.

The first option, shifting the crosswalk further east, would not be very feasible, Louwagie said.

A second option consisted of installing a pedestrian-activated rectangle rapid flashing beacon, or RRFB, at the crosswalk.

“There’s a high rate of success with this type of device,” Louwagie said.

At one point, this option was off the table as the patent holder was not allowing further installation, but another party has purchased the patent to allow it.

Similar to the RRFB, but not similarly effective, is a sign with constantly flashing LED lights surrounding it.

“People get so used to seeing it, they ignore it,” Louwagie said. “The RRFB has a wig-wag pattern similar to emergency vehicles that gets people’s attention.”

A fourth option is to install a concrete bump-out, which would prevent motorists from passing on the shoulder and put pedestrians in their sight lines.

The Public Safety Commission recommended adding the RRFB as soon as possible and the bump-out in the fall, but city staff is recommending the installation of both as soon as possible.

Councilwoman Betsy Stolfa broached the topic of having a crossing guard at the crosswalk. Louwagie said having adult crossing guards at crosswalks is the most protective method, but it was noted that children and adults use the crosswalk throughout the day, not just at times when a crossing guard would be present.

Councilman Jon Sutherland agreed with staff that combining the RRFB with the bump-out would be most effective.

“This really nice sign that has improved safety – the stats tell us it really improves safety – when you put it out there with the bump-out, it really prevents cars from going around the right side,” Sutherland said.

Wright County will cover 50 percent of the cost for the RRFB, estimated at $8,000 to $12,000, while the city would be required to cover the entire cost of the bump-out, estimated at about $5,000, though the county would waive the permit fee for that option.

Mayor Dale Graunke said the crosswalk has been there for 20 years, but is not effective by itself because the road “is so wide-open that it’s hard to drive 30 mph.”

He also recommended adding a 25 mph school zone sign with a flashing light, an option that will be discussed with county staff.

Ultimately, the council approved combining the RRFB with the bump-out.

Also related to County Road 30, the council directed staff to begin soliciting ideas for renaming it, an idea that was initially approved by the Public Safety Commission in 2017, but had not moved forward.

Another crosswalk request, to connect trails across the intersection of Seventh Street and Johnson Drive, was tabled due to plans for construction at that intersection in 2019.

“If we’re going to be tearing that curb out, we could do it as part of the whole project,” Graunke said.

“I think it has been brought up a number of times,” Kern added. “I don’t believe there was an incident or anything that prompted it.”

Splash pad rules
Following the recommendation of the Park and Recreation Commission, the council approved the following rules and suggestions for the splash pad:

• Children entering fifth grade or younger must have a chaperone present. A chaperone is defined as anyone going into sixth grade or older.

• Chaperones who will not interact with the water do not need to pay admission. This is a change from a previous draft of the rules.

• No outside toys or chairs will be allowed, and the city shall provide some deck chairs. Per Stolfa’s recommendation, the city will also explore the possibility of a simple storage mechanism for items such as flip-flops and towels.

• Staff have discretion to close the splash pad due to temperatures and host free admission days during very hot conditions.

• A small sign will recognize the community groups that donated resources to purchase aquatic wheelchairs for the splash pad. Landscape Structures will pay for the sign.

Staff will also look into a policy for nuisance participants, such as a three-strike rule, as requested by Graunke.

In addition to these rules and recommendations, the city will study River Street near Central Park to better understand potential hazards associated with parking and crosswalks in that area. Graunke had previously recommended a controlled crosswalk and noted Tuesday that, if approved, an RRFB could be installed there at the same time as at the Hidden Hills crosswalk.

Odds and ends
In other business, the council:

• adopted an updated data practices policy. The initial policy was adopted in 2001, and amended in 2014. The updated policy brings the city into compliance with legislation and provides direction to those requesting data.

• set a public hearing regarding a tax increment financing district at the West Metro Business Park for Tuesday, May 15.

• awarded the following bids for the Central Park concessions building: a bid of $15,997 for cash registers from North Country Business Products, of Plymouth, with the 4th of July Committee pledging $5,000 of that amount; a bid of $14,696 for a concrete floor cover system from GF One Coatings, of Delano; and a bid of $8,018 for fiberglass-reinforced panels and ceiling tiles from Berg Exteriors, of Maple Plain.

• transferred the title of clerk from Finance Director Brian Bloch to Administrative Services Coordinator Paula Bauman. Many of the duties associated with the position had already shifted to Bauman.

• approved a ballfield use agreement with Delano Public Schools. The district had been utilizing the fields at Central Park in the past, but there had not been a written agreement related to such use. The district will be responsible for field preparations and contribute $7,000 annually for rent of the fields.

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