At last week’s LaPrairie City Council meeting, the first order of business was a public hearing to discuss the vacation of the alley between LaPrairie and Elizabeth avenues, bound on the north by Balsam Street and on the south by Fraser Street.
Resident Steven Skadsem kicked off the discussion, noting that he and some of his neighbors had kept the vegetated alley mowed and raked for more than 20 years. He added that another neighbor had planted a total of 13 trees in the alley. “It’s going to be a jungle,” he told the council.
When prompted to sum up his position by Mayor Mike Fall, Skadsem said that he would like to keep the corridor as an alley, remove the planted trees and make a few improvements that would allow him access to his garage that faces the alley. At the conclusion of his remarks, Skadsem handed the mayor a petition with the signatures of eight residents, who he said agreed with his position.
Jim Jurvelin, representing Minnesota Energy Resources (MERC), said that no matter what the council did, MERC would like continued access to the easement in the alley.
Councilor Vic Moen and his wife, Audrey, also weighed in on the matter. The Moens live at the southeast corner of the intersection between Balsam St. and LaPrairie Ave. Audrey Moen said that approving the vacation of the alley would increase the tax base, reduce thru traffic, reduce the potential for crime and reduce maintenance costs to the city.
Vic Moen added; “In the 10-plus years that I have lived at our residence on LaPrairie Ave., I have never seen a vehicle go up or down that alley-way.” Moen added that there were no obstructions on any of the affected lots that would prevent owners from getting to the back of those lots, and that all fire hydrants were situated on streets and none in the alley. He concluded his remarks by stating that he saw no public interest in maintaining the alley.
The last person to speak was Victoria Fall, who lives on the south side of the intersection between Steinhart Cir. and Fraser St. and serves on the city’s Zoning Committee. She told the council that she was in favor of vacating the alley, citing cost and safety concerns.
Fall then closed the public hearing and returned to the regular agenda. Fall said that the council could not take action on the alley issue without all councilors present, noting Tony Donahue’s absence from the meeting. The matter will be decided at a future council meeting.
Fall turned the meeting over to City Engineer Bob Beaver, who discussed lighting along LaPrairie Ave. Responding to LaPrairie resident Skadsem’s complaint about safety along LaPrairie Ave. where it was poorly illuminated, Beaver said that the street lights in place were meant to light up road intersections and not sidewalks, except in densely populated areas or long stretches of roadway with no lighting.
Councilor Steve Feyma noted that the street light configuration was expandable and that the council should consider adding additional lighting next year. Fall agreed, in light of the walking trail at that location. Beaver said he would return to the council with an estimate and any electric service jurisdiction issues at a later date.
In other business, the council:
• Accepted two flags from the VFW.
• Acknowledged receipt of the new radar speed sign and directed Beaver to begin rotating the unit among speed limit signs on Fraser St. and LaPrairie Ave.
• Voted to accept the low quote from Jim’s Auto Repair in the amount of $841.21 for repairs to the city’s truck.
• Authorized SEH to obtain quotes for playground equipment repairs.
• Voted to paint a double yellow line on LaPrairie Ave. and Lorane Dr. after the final driving surface is in place in early June.
• Authorized Fall to sign the snow plowing agreement with Schwartz & Sons for 2016/2017.
• Approved a joint powers agreement with the city of Grand Rapids for building inspection services, effective June 1st.
• Authorized SEH to review the issue of water drainage along Mary Ann Dr.
• Accepted a $3,000 grant for installation of LED lighting.