BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Permanently pulling stop signs from 15th Street south of Avenue E and eliminating parking on the east side of the street north of Avenue E met with some resistance Tuesday night.
During the regular Fort Madison City Council meeting the item came up for a first reading as an ordinance to remove four stop signs on 15th Street. Those signs would be the north and southbound stop signs at Avenues G and F.
The ordinance also would ban parking on the east side of the street from Avenue E to the northern city limits on 15th Street.
Councilwoman Rebecca Bowker had concerns about school children being able to safely navigate the intersections or being forced to go up to Avenue E to make the cross over to Lincoln Elementary.
The issue was part of a recommendation out of a Public Safety Committee chaired by Councilman Chad Cangas to improve traffic flow along that street.
But Cangas said it was his plan to include in the changes a permanent four-way stop at 15th and Avenue E.
Councilman Tom Schulz, who voted in favor of the ordinance change, said the four-way has to be part of the overall solution.
“This is a no without that four-way stop,” Schulz said.
Schulz had originally made a motion to table the first reading of the ordinance until the four-way language was added, but when Cangas said a recommendation would be coming for the four-way, Schulz pulled his motion to table.
The stop signs were taken down temporarily earlier this summer at the request of the council because of complaints about the inconsistency of traffic with “bagged” stop signs, which had black bags put over them while detouring traffic during the Hwy. 61 reconstruction.
Traffic was routed up 6th Street, which also has bagged stop signs north and southbound to Avenue E, then west on E to 15th and back south to Hwy. 61. Only the signs on the 15th Street have been removed because it serves as a major arterial to the city’s landfill and Hwy. 61 bypass, and carries substantial truck traffic.
Fort Madison Police Chief Mark Rohloff said data captured since that signs were bagged and then ultimately pulled down shows an improved traffic flow for the city.
“We’ve had three accidents at those intersections since the detour. One was a bicyclist and the other two were motor vehicles. And neither of them had anything to do with the changes we put in place,” he said.
“With the signs being taken down, we’ve had several positive comments and it seems to be like a good permanent fix for that roadway.”
Bowker said there are too many children moving through the intersections at both F and G to remove the signs permanently.
“It’s a public safety thing and we do so many other public safety things,” Bowker said.
“So we just let the kids get hit? Park your car down there in the morning and see how many children are walking down there.”
Mark Lair also voted against the first reading saying he’d heard from many parents and grandparents who’ve expressed concerns about the kids safety and having to take different routes to get to school.
Mayor Pro Tem Rusty Andrews presided over the meeting, as Mayor Matt Mohrfeld was recovering from a medical procedure. Andrews reminded the council that Lincoln Elementary, under current construction plans, won’t be around in two years. The Fort Madison School District’s plan include retiring the school once construction is complete to add the students to the current Fort Madison Middle School on the city’s west side.
Those plans were extended by a maximum of one year last month when the construction management team informed the school district that materials were becoming difficult to obtain.
In other action, the council:
• approved a new liquor license for “The Rail Yard” which is the new name of Kinnick South. The bar was purchased by a group including Bob Holtkamp, Scott Meller and Brock Umthun. The group takes over operations on Oct. 15.
• approved a second reading of an ordinance rezoning 1501 39th Street from R-4 to B-4 Highway Business District to allow the construction of an urgent care facility.
• approved two change orders one for the Amtrak Depot Platform project to replace and add fencing, and the other on the parking lot reconstruction projects reducing the cost of the project.