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Charles City traffic light removal plan hits a red light

By Travis Fischer,

The Charles City Council considered the permanent removal of some Main Street traffic lights during its workshop meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 12.

With the city developing plans for an overlay project on Main Street, city staff has discussed removing the traffic lights at certain intersections. Due to the replacement parts for the aging lights getting harder to find and the reduced traffic along Main Street, it has been proposed to remove the lights at the Riverside, Blunt, and Hulin intersections entirely, which would save the city the cost of replacement and maintenance.

In their place, the city would leave those Main Street intersections open, with stop signs on the east/west sides, according to a proposal presented at the workshop meeting.

The council discussed the pros and cons of keeping or removing the traffic lights, but members were adamant about not opening up Main Street, instead proposing four-way stops at the intersections instead.

“I’d be down for a four-way stop,” said council member Phoebe Pittman. “I want people to be stopping downtown.”

“I think four-way stops are the solution,” said council member Phillip Knighten.

“I couldn’t get behind it as it’s written,” said council member Patrick Lumley.

While replacing the traffic lights with four-way stop signs was the preferred option of the council, that solution may encounter a bureaucratic hurdle.

To install stop signs along Main Street, the city would need to perform a traffic study to determine that the signs would be necessary. While the city’s existing traffic lights can remain indefinitely, City Engineer John Fallis expressed doubt that Main Street currently sees enough traffic that four-way stops would be allowed.

“I just don’t think a traffic study would warrant it,” Fallis said.

Complicating the issue further is the Mill Race Parking Lot project, which the council agreed would need to be completed before an accurate traffic study could even take place.

With this in mind, the council agreed to tell engineering firm Veenstra & Kimm to plan the overlay project around keeping the traffic lights, noting that those plans may be changed later.

Also at the meeting, the council received a report from PAWS manager Julie Taylor and assistant manager Jacie Peichel about the work they’ve been doing.

Overall, the animal shelter has seen a stable flow of animals coming in and being adopted, they said.

“For the most part, we’ve stayed very consistent,” said Taylor.

The shelter has also made improvements to its facility, from practical improvements like new shelving and heating units to decorative improvements like exterior and interior painting to provide a friendlier atmosphere for animals and volunteers alike.

“It’s just more of a nice place to volunteer,” said Peichel.

PAWS is in critical need of more volunteer support, they said, encouraging anybody interested to apply to help with caretaking duties. From cleaning litter boxes and walking dogs to playing with the kittens, there is plenty of work that can be done.

Even just coming out to sit with the animals provides a benefit as exposing animals to new people helps make them more sociable.

“It helps them and it makes them more adoptable,” said Peichel.

Peichel also noted that kids under 16 can volunteer with parental permission, and that volunteering at the shelter can be a good way to teach kids about the responsibility of caring for a pet for parents considering getting their children a pet of their own.

From the city’s side of things, Taylor and Peichel did lament that PAWS doesn’t receive a lot of communication when it comes to animals in their care during vicious animal proceedings, leaving them to take care of a potentially dangerous animal for an unknown amount of time as the case works its way through the system. Likewise, PAWS is often left with vet bills and other costs when returning an animal to its owner.

The council agreed that PAWS shouldn’t be incurring those costs and will look into making sure that animal ordinances are properly enforced.

In other business, the council met with Brandy Salinas of Salinas’ to discuss an extension of the waiver for their business parking lot. The Salinas received a waiver last year after purchasing the former Gilbert St. Casey’s property, allowing them to establish their new business without paving their parking lot to bring it in compliance with city code.

Salinas asserted that a miscommunication with city employees left them under the impression that they had additional time to bring their parking lot up to code, but they did not double-check that with the city.

“That was our fault,” said Salinas.

Salinas said that they have already made arrangements to have the parking lot paved next week and that, weather permitting, it will be done by Thursday. With this in mind, the council agreed to postpone the extension request and follow up if necessary.

Finally, the council looked over a request to declare the 401 N. Main Street Parking Lot project completed.

Replacing the parking lot behind the chamber building, the $50,993.70 project came in $4,256.80 under the original bid due to a difference in materials from the estimate as the island in the parking lot was not removed.

“It’s always nice when a project comes in under the expected amount,” said City Administrator Steve Diers.

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