Controversy continues

Sarah Ebeling | Managing Editor

Over 15 residents showed up to last Monday’s city council meeting in Parker to talk sidewalks. The on-going controversy isn’t over even though some council members have said they are done talking about them. 

From an exemption on Mulligan and one on 6th Street to discussion on sidewalk issues on N. Plum in town, many people had an input on what was going on when it came to these walkways. 

Mayor Ron Nelson asked Max Masters if he wanted to speak on behalf of Grace Avenue and Grace Circle Masters noted that he has spoken several times, but would speak again if need be. 

Dale Peters, who lives on Grace, asked the council if they could have more time as the deadline to install sidewalks is August. 

Nelson explained that in an effort to expedite things, if the homeowners on Grace would like to place their sidewalks four foot from the front of the curb, allowing them to miss most of the landscaping and trees, would that be ok with the council? 

“No. We already made it once at seven foot. Then we went back to our original as property line,” said councilmember Brian Schulte. 

“I’m asking this group,” interjected Nelson. 

“I’m talking,” said Schulte, “You’ve asked like five times to put it behind the curb and gutter.”

Peters said there is another street in town that has seven and a half and 11 and a half, so it’s not like it is hard and fast. 

“It’s hard and fast now,” said Schulte. “I think we did that last month where it was property line. We changed it the month before to seven and a half.”

“Why did it change,” asked Peters? 

Street Superintendent Mike Jorgensen spoke to the group. He explained that the sidewalks on Mulligan Drive were installed before anyone had contacted him or the city. He said when he did an initial drive by, they looked right, like the rest of the town. Once he started checking because Mulligan Drive also has a 36’ road like Grace Avenue, he found they were wrong but he isn’t going to ask them to tear out their sidewalks. 

Peters said they are trying to do things the right way, but what if they were just to install their sidewalks. 

“Two wrongs don’t make a right,” he said. 

Jorgensen said they have been beating this horse to death for a couple years. 

He explained that people have ideas on how or where they want to put their sidewalks and the council decided they can not make exceptions. 

“We’ve got legal advice from our attorney not to keep making exceptions for people because it opens us up for lawsuits,” said Jorgensen. 

He told Peters that he wasn’t saying everything was done right, but that they are trying to do things right. 

“Just fair is all I am asking,” said Peters. 

He continued, noting that when he moved in to his home 14 years ago, no one said a word to him about sidewalks and he would have gladly put one in then. 

“You should have asked the mayor because he knew,” said Jorgensen. 

Nelson said that when they built the development they never had any intention of putting a sidewalk in so he never said anything. 

Jorgensen said that when he became zoning administrator the problem he kept running into when telling people they needed to install sidewalks was they would ask why because Nelson didn’t have them. 

Nelson said he doesn’t mind putting them in, but he wants to put them where they all want them. 

Jorgensen told Nelson then he should have made that rule back in 1996 when he passed the ordinance. 

“How do you want me to treat people fair, when you have Dale go one way and someone another way,” said Jorgensen. 

Council member Peggy Berens asked how far they are talking to move the sidewalks, noting that no one has given them a plan on what they want to do. 

Peters said that they would like to move the location of the sidewalk to save both trees and landscaping but if they put them where they are supposed to, almost all of them will lose trees. 

After more discussion about the ordinance and what can be done, the council told the residents of Grace Avenue to bring a proposal to the council next month. 

Chris Poncelet told the council that sidewalks in Parker should be an all or nothing rule and that they should take out the year of when a home had to be built to install sidewalks. He asked if it could be relooked at and brought to a vote. 

Donavan DeBoer told the group that he knows this isn’t an easy issue to deal with but he wasn’t given a choice and he had no disclosure when he bought his house. 

Schulte told the group he really appreciates them coming but why now when this topic has been discussed for two years and now they are using the excuse of COVID. 

Also on the agenda was the discussion of sidewalk extensions. Council member Roxie Harms said she realizes people in town might not have had jobs for several months due to the pandemic and she would like to give them an extension to complete their sidewalks. Council member Lance Nogelmeier said he feels like this has been going on for three years and homeowners won’t have to pay this until next year. 

After a role call vote, Nelson voted, breaking the tie, allowing for a city-wide extension for homeowners who need to install sidewalks. 

Newest council member Arnie Erickson said that he thinks the council should revisit the different streets and different widths and if everyone in the same neighborhood agrees, they should all work together and get along and make something work. 

Also on the agenda was discussion on the second phase of Main Avenue lighting which would continue south on Main up to the courthouse. The addition of nine poles was approved.  

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