Council goes with lit signs instead of a sidewalk on Widman Lane.

    The on and off discussion about adding a stretch of new sidewalk to a planned reconstruction of Widman Lane on Crookston's north end this summer reached a resolution at this week's city council Ways &  Means Committee meeting, when the council nixed the sidewalk idea in favor of LED-lit pedestrian crossing signs on the north and south sides of Fisher Avenue at its intersection with Widman Lane.

    At Large Council Member Wayne Melbye was the lone vote against the motion to add the two signs. He questions the positive impact on pedestrian safety – mostly students walking to and from Crookston High School – that the signs will have.

    On a couple of occasions in recent months, the council has debated which side of Widman Lane to potentially put a sidewalk. The west side, lined by residential homes, was not popular with many council members, mostly because many trees would have had to have been removed as part of the project. The east side was looked upon more favorably because there are more apartments than homes, and less of an impact on trees. The cost of the sidewalk on either side didn't vary much, with a west-side walk costing $15,320 and an east side walk costing $13,500.

    Ward 6 Council Member Tom Vedbraaten, who delivers mail in the area, said he sees only three or four students walking to and from school on Widman Lane. Younger children on the street are picked up and dropped off by a school bus, he said. Vedbraaten has long contended that pedestrian safety concerns on Widman Lane are far outweighed by pedestrian safety concerns on Fisher Ave.

    "I've never seen a student dodging traffic on Widman Lane," he said. "But I sure have seen lots of students dodging cars while trying to cross Fisher Avenue."

    The two LED signs, mounted on 16-foot high poles and located where Polk County stripes the roadway to indicate a pedestrian crossing, would have a push-button mechanism that would activate flashing lights so traffic going in both directions on Fisher Ave. would know pedestrians are seeking to cross. Public Works Director Pat Kelly said they light up brightly, but noted that their impact on motorists' behavior seems to be greater at night, when the flashing signs are particularly hard to miss.

    Each sign will cost around $5,900.

    Mayor Dave Genereux, saying he's not convinced a sidewalk on Widman Lane would "do much good," endorsed giving the signs a try.

    "It's all going to come down to driver behavior," Vedbraaten added. "It's up to them to see the sign first, and then make the decision to stop."

Johnson gets more responsibility, money
   Building Inspector Matt Johnson has passed his building official certification testing much sooner than originally expected, so the committee endorsed a plan to have him receive a $2,500 raise now instead of January 2014, as initially planned.

    City Administrator Tony Chladek said the money can come from the fire department budget, where some money on salaries has been saved due to turnover.

    Johnson next January is also on track to be designated the city's zoning administrator and a department head. At that time, he's expected to receive an additional $2,500 raise.

    Community Development Director Mike MacDonald is phasing into retirement and phasing out of building official and zoning administrator responsibilities.