EM Village Board discusses streets, signs and parking

By Cara L. Dempski

ELK MOUND — Traffic, parking, streets and signs were the main topics under discussion during Elk Mound’s most recent village board meeting.

The March 8 meeting opened with the news that part of South Garland Avenue is currently blocked off with barriers and orange cones due to the pavement being torn up by plows. Public works director Mark Levra said the pavement was pulled up after the frost started coming out of the ground during a spell of warm weather in February.

While a portion of the street is blocked off, Levra noted Garland Avenue is wide enough south of Menomonie Street for vehicles to go around the blocked portion. He also informed the board that Fir Avenue is buckling just south of Menomonie Street. Levra told the board he is looking at pricing options for both locations needing repair.

The public works director also told the board he had spoken with Dustin Binder from the Dunn County Highway Department regarding changing the locations of speed signs on South Holly Avenue near the Village Park. He said the county will do a traffic survey in the area this spring, but the sign location guidelines are set based on a driver’s field of vision and need to stay where they are in order to maintain state aid.

His conversation came on the heels of village trustee Steven Abraham and several residents of the South Holly Avenue neighborhood expressing concern about the speed with which many drivers approach and leave the village as they cross the bridge over interstate highway 94.

Abraham clarified the next step for the concerns expressed.

“In other words, if the county will do nothing, the next level we go to is the state?” Abraham asked.

Levra confirmed this, and informed Abraham the county does not want to risk losing its state transportation aid by moving the signs.

Elk Mound’s public works director said he had also spoken with Binder regarding replacing the north and southbound stop signs on Holly Avenue/County Highway H at Menomonie Street/U.S. Highway 12 with solar-powered, flashing LED stop signs. A discussion at a previous meeting held after a two vehicle injury accident occurred at the intersection fueled Levra’s conversation with Binder.

Unfortunately, because the signs are at the intersection of a county highway and U.S. Highway, Dunn County would be responsible for all repairs and could be liable for any accidents that occur at the junction of the two highways if the signs were to malfunction.

“If the village were to purchase the signs, I put in the scenario that we would pay for it,” Levra explained. “He did not think the county would allow it (Elk Mound replacing the signs), and is sure the state would not.”

Current police chief Travis Hakes asked if it would be wise to take the suggestion to a county board meeting, as there have been concerns voiced in the past regarding the village’s liability for accidents in which drivers say they did not see either stop sign.

Binder reportedly informed Levra accident records at the intersection do not currently warrant special signage to call attention to the stop signs.

Village trustee Terry Stamm said he had spoken with the owner of the Junction, which sits on the northeast corner of the intersection in question, regarding her concerns about the stop signs. Board president Tom Gilbert suggested the Junction’s owner take her concerns about the intersection to the county board.

Stamm then opened the discussion about parking and concerns about abandoned, unlicensed vehicles parked along Railroad Street and Elm Avenue near Elk Mound Seed Company. He informed the board the several blocks of roadway that stretch from Holly Avenue on the east to just west of the feed store is one of the narrowest rights of way in the village.

Gilbert said issues with abandoned cars and on-street parking have been addressed by the village board in the past.

“I know we’ve looked at this before, and I know we have ordinances in place regarding abandoned vehicles,” Gilbert stated. “We haven’t messed with it too much down there, because if the railroad has to stake out what is there, we suddenly lose a lot of area down there.”

Trustee Steven Abraham brought up his concern about several unregistered, unlicensed vehicles parked on the street, or close to it, near the feed store and behind the homes that back up to Railroad and Elm. Stamm said the issue boils down to the vehicles’ locations and whether they are in use.

Current village ordinance states “whenever any such vehicle has been left unattended on any street or highway in the Village of Elk Mound or upon private or public property without permission of the property owner or other person charged with the lawful jurisdiction thereof for more than forty-eight (48) hours, the vehicle shall be deemed abandoned and constitutes a public nuisance.”

The ordinance clarifies a vehicle will be presumed unattended if it is found in the same position 48 hours after a citation is issued and the ticket remains placed on the windshield during the same time span. Vehicles stored in enclosed buildings, stored on premises licensed for storage of junk or junked vehicles which are in compliance with zoning regulations, or parked in paid parking space are exempt from the ordinance.

Any enforcement official who discovers a motor vehicle, trailer, semitrailer, boat, or mobile home parked on a public street or highway, or private or public property in Elk Mound, and has been abandoned shall remove the vehicle to a suitable spot for impoundment. Village ordinance indicates the steps village officials should take to find the vehicle’s owner and what should be done if the vehicle is not claimed within a certain timeframe.

Gilbert and Stamm agreed that the issue is more involved than simply towing vehicles that are out of compliance with village ordinances. 

“Where do you draw the line for people who have no place to put anything?” Gilbert asked.

Chief Hakes said the main problem seems to be that people on those several blocks of streets do not have anywhere to put their vehicles. Stamm said there have been past efforts to make it easier for those residing in the neighborhood to have safe places for their cars that were out of the way of the heavy traffic that Elk Mound Seed Company can garner.

Trustee Brenda Carpenter, who lives on the stretch of road in question, said it can sometimes be difficult to park near her home. She lives on the block directly in front of the feed store, and is surrounded by the dance studio, gun shop, Pourhouse, and chiropractor’s office.

“For us to park in front of the house is nearly impossible half the time,” Carpenter told the board. “To get in on the back side (Railroad Street), we pull over as far as we can, but this time of year it’s so wet that our vehicles get stuck.”

Carpenter also said she and her family have obtained permission from the feed mill to park on the north side of the street, but more often than not have gotten notes asking them to move.

“There’s just nowhere else to go,” Carpenter explained.

Hakes suggested approaching the feed mill regarding putting in a parking lot on the northeast corner of Fir Avenue and Menomonie Street for the residents who live near the feed store to park their vehicles. While Hakes suggested piggy-backing a small parking pad at the location off any potential summer street projects, Abraham asked if a gravel parking area would be acceptable, since it would be less expensive.

The board agreed that, for now, Hakes would speak with the residents of the street regarding the village ordinance before issuing citations or having vehicles towed.

In other business, the village board:

• Received a draft of the village’s attorney policy and of the closed session policy to read and note changes as necessary.

• Learned the village received its first DNR resource subsidy grant payment in the amount of $371.88.

• Learned a representative from Homes for Heroes would like to attend a board meeting and give a short presentation. This is currently scheduled for the April 5 board meeting.

• Approved a $500 lease agreement with the school district for the high school baseball team to use the Village Park for the 2017 season.

• Discussed the cost of holding special meetings. Currently all board meetings are approximately $375 per meeting.

• Approved spending no more than $12,000 for a contracted engineering study proposed by Len Schreiber of Cedar Corp. The study would detail the cost and feasibility of putting a water reservoir on the north side of the village near the high school and Mound View Elementary.