Letter to the editor City should pursue original course for Chestnut Street
To the editor:
I find it increasingly difficult to understand or ignore the happenings at the last meeting of Vermillion's City Council this past Monday evening. I sat and listened to a person, who supposedly was addressing the council, turn and accuse responsible people in the audience of lying on issues concerning the Chestnut Street construction proposal.
It was apparent they were outraged at the thought of the Vermillion Area Chamber of Commerce and the Vermillion Development Company trying to help the business community, as well as most of Vermillion's citizens, bring this long standing argument to a conclusion. The C of C and VDC were responding to a request for help from the Clay County Commission, who feel this segment of road is vital to the completion of the farm to market system, as well as a decent truck route into Vermillion from the east. The Vermillion business community hasn't responded to this issue to the council, hence the request for help. Why the council heads permitted this outburst will remain a mystery, but in re-reading the letter they were referring to, there is nothing but fact in this document.
These same property owners were among those approaching the combined tax evaluation boards in the past to reduce their bluff side properties to a "0" taxable rating, as they felt they had no actual useable value. Their wishes were granted. But with the argument presented Monday night on worries about erosion, the land must be of some value to the owners.
The city did have an evaluation appraisal done on the properties in question and did make an offer for the small fraction of the properties they were going to use in the new construction. The offer was turned down and a counter proposal at a much higher rate per square foot was presented.
Did this mean that the property owners were willing to let this proposed road construction go through if they received more money? The Melbys stood in front of Monday night's council and stated more than several times that the money didn't mean anything to them and they would be glad to donate the land to the city or words to that effect. But it seems only if the road was built to their specifications (this is my assumption). So I don't really know the answer to my previous question.
Here are the facts. You can draw your own conclusions. Jeanette Stone was offered $10,800 for 9,231 square feet of her property. She countered with a figure of $51,250; Jim Johnson was offered $4,700 for 2,731 square feet. He indicated $25,000 would be more in line; and the real ringer is the offer of $4,100 to Neil and Lynette Melby for only 2,077 square feet of land. Their counter proposal was $62,500. I have copies of the proposals and the signed counter offers
Getting on to the seven-page document presented to the Chamber by Neil and Lynette Melby, it's hard to understand what they really don't like about the proposed Chestnut Street project. Is it the money it is going to cost � or one or all of several other arguments they seem to have come up with?
The $1.3 million estimated cost of the road project is a lot of money, but it has to be kept in mind that the railroad is responsible for $900,000 of these costs. The railroad will have to be dealt with no matter what plan is adopted to fix the road. Half measures on this project at this time will have to be faced in the future, maybe sooner than later.
There are some who believe building a narrow street in this segment of road will promote safety. That thinking is hard to imagine. With two trucks, cars or what approaching each other on a street, is the pedestrian going to be safer on a wide or narrow street?
There is talk about children playing on a high retaining wall with "speeding trains" passing by. If allowed, children can play on the tracks right now � or fall off the current roadside where there are no guard railings to outline the safe passage. And what about the bicycle path built along the very edge of the Vermillion River? I heard no objections to that very attractive place to play from concerned mothers. This area is a real potential danger to small children.
The document goes on and on about there not being room left for a sidewalk along the proposed street. There's not a sidewalk now and really no need for one. Do they really believe with their proposed 20 foot top of the road there will be room for a sidewalk? The answer, of course, is no.
The legal width for vehicles today is 8'6''. Two trucks or autos towing wide boats would have one foot of clearance on either side and between them. Does this sound like safe passage for a modern road? A 24-foot road doesn't present much more room.
There is concern about erosion, when in actuality the bank will not be cut to gain the width. The road bed will be raised to accommodate the width. This means there will be fill dirt brought in and anchored at the base with a curb and gutter. Possible erosion would be much more unlikely than it is now.
If this isn't clear, draw a 45 degree line and at the base of your line draw another that would represent the street. Now move that street line up the slope to see the results. More width � no cutting into the slope. Erosion fear factor doesn't hold water.
They say a better Chestnut Street will divert traffic away from downtown Vermillion. Again this reasoning is another senseless diversion to reasonable thinking. If there are two ways to get to the base of Vermillion's Main business street, which way are you going to travel? Through a school zone, two signal lights and more than several blocks of residential housing or go to the bottom of Dakota Street and up the hill to the base of the business district � again a no-brainer. Not once you know the way.
The letter to the Chamber is full of passages that refer to children's safety. There is no one in this city who isn't concerned with children's safety, but in reality there are places children should play and there are places they shouldn't play. We have these areas now all around the city.
Somehow children are, for the most part, kept from playing where they shouldn't. Chestnut is no different. We just are hearing a lot of talk on it.
The figure of expending only $275,000 on a revised plan keeps surfacing in their talk, in lieu of $1.3 million. This is just a figure being thrown out for the sake of talk. I would be very cautious on this being a valid figure for even the downsized version of the road.
The railroad still has to be reckoned with. Actually, road construction cost estimates only vary $125,000 between a road that will do the job intended or a make-do road that will have to be addressed in the future, if you discount the railroad's part in this.
We read in this letter about special interests in this project. Of course there are some businesses that want to see this road constructed properly. There's nothing wrong with that. They are interested in a safe and practical means of getting traffic to their place of business.
But more than anything, it's important to see this small segment of road constructed properly to finish the infrastructure scheme of things that will enhance Vermillion's stake in the future.
It's time for Vermillion's City Council to stop listening to a few people intent on stopping a just construction project. In the not too distant past, the council disregarded quite a few citizens' wishes on the amount of money to be spent on a new fire station.
We now have the new fire station and all the dissent is forgotten and we have a facility adequate for the future.
Chestnut Street should be built with an eye to the future also. The council is elected by the people to act and make decisions on matters that are impossible for the masses to agree on. Not always a pleasant task.
They, like most governmental segments, surround themselves with engineers, lawyers and experts to advise them on projects they really know nothing about. This has all been done with the Chestnut Street project. They know the proper way to complete this project is as designed and they voted to go through with it at one time, so what's the hang up?
If condemnation proceedings have to be started, let's get on with it. Clay County is going through this process right now in order to complete their end of the bargain with the business community of Vermillion for another route into the city from the south.
It's not a pleasant way to have to do business, but sometimes it's the last resort to honorably complete an agreed upon arrangement that has the future's best interests at stake. No matter the cost.
Bill Willroth Sr.