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Steamed about stop signs: Neighborhood residents say removal of signage a safety hazard

BEMIDJI — The public voiced anger over removal of stop signs at a Bemidji intersection during the City Council meeting Monday.

Four residents, including former mayor Richard Lehmann, complained about the lack of signs at Wee Gwaus Drive and Irvingside Lane to replace signs removed when the intersection near U.S. Highway 2 on the south edge of the city was realigned.

“I was told the neighborhood wanted the change,” Lehmann said. “I have no idea what neighborhood they were talking to.”

City Engineer Craig Gray said the two former stop signs did not meet Minnesota Department of Transportation criteria so the city took them both out, replacing one. Before the intersection was realigned, motorists complained it was confusing, Gray wrote in a memo to the council. Gray cited MNDOT guidelines that said stop signs are not to be used to control speeds, which conflicted with some of the residents’ worries that the lack of stop signs might cause speeding.

“If they don’t do something before school starts, it’s going to become a raceway for anyone from the age of 16 on up,” resident Kathy Johnson said. “I can tell you there is an increase in student traffic on that road just (based on) the garbage… from the time school starts until the time school ends.”

The intersection once controlled eastbound and westbound traffic on Wee Gwaus Drive but now only controls southbound traffic on Irvingside Lane, according to maps provided by Gray.

The council took no direct action on the stop sign issue Monday, instead voting to table it until an upcoming Sept. 2 regular meeting in order to give council members enough time to visit the intersection themselves.

Leaks at Sanford Center

The city will pay at least $45,450 to investigate rainwater leaks in the four-year-old Sanford Center after the council voted unanimously to contract with engineering firms INSPEC and Clark Engineering Corp.  

In July, Mike Cronin, the center’s operations director, reported to the Sanford Center Advisory Board that wall panels on the side of the building were bowing, causing water leaks in the center’s ballroom and service corridor areas.

In a memo to the council, Bemidji City Attorney Al Felix noted that whatever engineering firm the council chose, they would contract directly with Kennedy and Graven, the legal firm retained by the city.

“Nonetheless, the cost… will be passed onto the city,” he said.

The city received proposals from three firms, all with offices in Minneapolis: WJE Associates, Clark Engineering Corp. and INSPEC.  

Felix said in the memo all three firms up for consideration were “very competent,” but pointed out only INSPEC and Clark Engineering were “consultants that the city itself independently solicited.”

WJE’s proposal was requested on behalf of the city by Kraus-Anderson Construction, one of the firms that helped build the Sanford Center.

During the meeting, Bemidji City Manager John Chattin said the contracts with INSPEC and Clark were preferred by Kennedy and Graven because of the potential for a lawsuit between the city and Kraus-Anderson.

INSPEC and Clark’s report will join at least two other studies of the leaks either in progress or already conducted. Leo A. Daly, the architects that designed the Sanford Center, and Kraus-Anderson completed a report earlier this spring. The company that supplied and installed the precast wall panels, Hanson Structural Precast, is authoring its own report to be completed within the next two to three weeks on the leaks and possible solutions.

Zach Kayser
Zach Kayser covers local government and city issues for the Pioneer. He previously worked for the Wadena Pioneer Journal, and is an alumni of the University of Minnesota, Morris. 
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