City looks to restructure well-traveled street

Council approves intersection plan, median removal to be discussed March 19

The City Council of Webster City reached a consensus on which engineering option they will be using for the Superior Street and Fairmeadow Drive intersection on Monday night. The council chose Option C. This option will be tailored in the future as members of the council did not reach a consensus about whether to remove the medians or not. The possible removal of the medians and specifics of the plan will be discussed again and possibly approved at the March 19 meeting.

The need to restructure the medians at Fairmeadow Drive and Superior Street comes after the approval of Kwik Star’s rezoning request back in January. Part of the agreement entailed improving the intersection to allow for the additional traffic expected at the intersection. The council has agreed to share in the cost with Kwik Star to improve the intersection.

The cost to do Option C as it is totals $613,900. Kwik Trip would be responsible for $412,800 of this, leaving the city to pay for $201,100. Cost to remove the medians would be an additional $141,800. It would cost an additional $100,100 to widen the north bound lane.

“Most of the feedback I’ve had is people wanted the islands gone,” said Councilman Jim Talbot.

Councilman Logan Welch agreed with Talbot and cited residents he spoke with who were in favor of fully removing the medians.

“Some of these options are designed by expert road designers and I understand that, however, I feel that the diversion of traffic can be done with painted lines just as well and merge signs,” said Welch.

Three conceptual plans were originally presented by Snyder & Associates Inc. According to the council packet, all three plans incorporated improving the intersection by reconfiguring the southwest, northwest and northeast corners of the intersection and tapering the center median on the north side of Superior Street. This would allow a wider turning radius for trucks and vehicles, which many residents have voiced a need for wider turning radius.

Plans B and C encompassed additional features such as a longer right hand turning lane for southbound traffic on Superior Street and tapering the center median on the north side of Superior Street in order to accommodate the continuation of two lanes of southbound traffic up to the intersection. One lane would then accommodate through traffic and the right hand lane would accommodate right hand turns for traffic heading west on Fairmeadow Drive.

“I think one of the issues that everyone has had is from the south – that inside lane just ends and you have to merge,” said Councilman Matt McKinney. “That’s been a problem and that goes away with the new design. So we’re getting rid of one of the pieces people have a problem with.”

According to the council packet, the city’s insurance carrier has indicated that removing the medians altogether may increase the city’s exposure if an accident should occur. The medians also serve as a traffic calming measure to help reduce the likelihood of collisions of vehicles traveling in opposing lanes.

Webster City Public Works Director Ken Wetzler came up to the podium to talk about a discussion he had prior to the meeting with a DOT official.

“He said that at the time this intersection was designed all those approvals had to be done through the DOT and at that time, the medians were required,” said Wetzler. “The other thing that I will say – and to me – if we take the medians out, we take them out. But I will say this. If you are northbound and someone doesn’t have that left turn lane and you can’t see where the painted lines are at if there’s snow piled up, it’s going to look like you’re driving right into oncoming southbound traffic.”

“I think it’s important, from my perspective, to note that that was a requirement when the DOT did the project originally,” said McKinney citing the need to keep the medians. “That was a safety factor.”

Wetzler also noted with the removal of the medians, the speed of drivers through that intersection would increase as a result.

Webster City Fire Chief Chuck Stansfield brought to the council’s attention to major accidents that have occurred at the intersection in the last year. He noted that without the medians, more traumatic, head-on collisions may have occurred.

“From a public safety standpoint, any median is better than none on a two lane highway,” said Stansfield. “If that was a DOT recommendation – pretty much any governmental agency that deals with safety issues – most of the time why they have a recommendation or a guideline has to do with a death behind it. I think for us to go against that, we have to really consider that from a public safety standpoint.”

“I think one of the issues that everyone has had is from the south – that inside lane just ends and you have to merge. That’s been a problem and that goes away with the new design. So we’re getting rid of one of the pieces people have a problem with, “ McKinney said.

Animal Ordinance

The first reading of a proposed ordinance amending animal protection and control was approved. This ordinance will allow those who receive prior written permission from the city council to implement a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program that is subject to the following requirements:

• Parties can live-trap any stray or feral cat(s) in a humane manner to allow for the cats to be processed through the TNR program – as long as they receive prior written permission from the property owner in which the traps will be placed

• Once a stray/feral cat has been live-trapped, the cat(s) shall be spayed or neutered, ear-tipped and vaccinated against rabies

• Parties participating in the TNR program shall provide a written report annually to the council outlining the number of cats spayed and neutered due to the program

This ordinance change comes after a request from the Hamilton County Animal AdvoCATes to implement a TNR program in Webster City. The current city ordinance doesn’t reference a TNR program, but does prohibit the feeding of feral and wild animals.

Hamilton County Animal AdvoCATes representative Monica Becker shared her thoughts on the ordinance change Monday evening with the council. Overall, Becker did not have any reservations with the changes in ordinance. She also encouraged keeping the approval process simple.

“I think by wanting to have TNR in Webster City, there’s an acknowledgement that there is a cat problem and we want to try and reduce that population,” Becker said. “We want to encourage people to participate in TNR and encourage to facilitate TNR.”

She did note that she is not in favor of the city ordinance’s current feeding ban.

“I think the goal of the feeding ban and TNR is to bring the cat population down,” said Becker. “However, if people are afraid they might get in trouble, they might not come forward to ask for help.”

Becker also explained a portion of the trapping part of the TNR program. The trapping would be done humanely. Traps would be set at specific, approved locations and cats would be baited to those destinations. Traps would be set out for one to two hours at a time and never at night. Once caught, cats would be taken to the vet for spaying/neutering, ear-tagging and shots.

Representatives favored removing the ban on feeding wild and feral animals but would consider if they could maintain the TNR program with the ban in place.