Citizens weigh in on ‘hot topics’ at public meeting

A meeting last week to gauge public opinion on various local projects drew a modest number of interested citizens who were not hesitant to state their opinion on the matters at hand.

Gerald Brinkerhoff and Roger Hiser pore over material during the community open house Thursday night at the Lovell Community Center. Some 40 to 50 people attended the open house.

Between 40 and 50 citizens went to the Lovell Community Center to share their thoughts on a number of topics including the future of the Main Street median strip, the sixth-cent sales tax proposal, the location of a Verizon Wireless communications tower, proposed entryway enhancements and what to do with the Mustang Days Rose Parade during Main Street construction.

People were able to move from station to station Thursday during the open house style meeting.

The hot topic Thursday appeared to be the median strip, and according to a simple tally of comment sheets passed out at the meeting, 22 of 26 people who expressed an opinion on the topic “voted” in favor of permanently removing the median strip. Three others wrote that they wanted to keep the median strip, and one person suggested a modified median.

The median strip is to be removed during a future Main Street overlay project that will include the installation of new water and sewer mains, a project tentatively slated for 2014. Because the sewer main lies directly under the current median strip, the median is to be removed in the project, but the Wyoming Dept. of Transportation is asking people for comments during the planning process under way and a decision from the Town of Lovell about whether WyDOT should plan for the median to be rebuilt as part of the project, which would be an additional cost.

Most of those who favor permanently removing the median strip said a median-free street would be far easier to keep clean during the winter.

One citizen wrote, “The median strip is a hazard in winter. The streets need to be cleaned of snow, (which is) better without a median strip.” Similarly, another wrote, “The streets will stay cleaner and the snow will be gone in the middle (if the strip is removed).” Added a third, “Removing the median would be a big help with street sweeping and snow removal.”

Others mentioned the cost of reconstructing the median.

“It would be cheaper and increase (the size of) parking lanes to remove the median,” wrote one person. Added another, “I would prefer to have the median strip removed because of the rising costs of materials, and it saves the town money.”

Some commented on how dangerous it is to cross on piled snow during the winter, and others said the removal would improve traffic flow, especially at the east end of town.

“I would love to see the median removed permanently, especially on the east end of town,” one person wrote. “Buses stop at the Food Court and all those children are crossing Main Street, also boats, semis, etc. During the winter snow piles up and people are falling or climbing over snow piles.”

Another also noted in regard to East Main, “I feel the presence of the island impedes traffic flow and customer convenience to each of the Main Street businesses. This is especially true of (vehicles, list provided) which have longer wheelbases and need more room to turn when entering or leaving Main Street. The island removal would make access to businesses more convenient, therefore encouraging more travelers and customers to stop in Lovell.”

Of those who were in favor of replacing the median strip with a new island during the project, two mentioned how nice it is for the flowers and two mentioned safety, noting that the median is a good place to stop while crossing the street. One person called the median “a distinctive item for the town.”

Others who favored removing the median permanently noted that flowers could still be provided for either in the center of the street or on the sidewalks. One person liked the idea of a partial median similar to the median in Riverton.

Sixth-cent tax

The other topic that drew plenty of comment was the proposed sixth-cent sales tax. Some people were dead set against the extra penny, others liked the idea of using the income for the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center and/or the Lovell-Kane Museum, both of which had representatives at the meeting.

Ten people commented on the sales tax, and the tally was split evenly, with five in favor and five against.

Some liked the idea of a new museum building and enhancing the wild mustang center east of town. At the time of the meeting it had been suggested that the two organizations join forces for a new facility, but at Tuesday’s Lovell Town Council meeting the museum board presented sketches of a proposed new building at Fifth and Oregon on the town lot directly west of the county annex and police department.

One person wrote concerns about the sustainability of a museum and suggested the sales tax money be used for a walking path.

Others worried about the how an extra cent would affect businesses.

“The extra 1 percent doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up,” one person wrote. “I believe it will hurt what businesses we have left. There are those who will quit buying anything because of that one little penny. Can we really afford to do that to what we have left? There are lots of interesting places to put it, but will we be cutting our own throats?”

One person wrote that a lottery would be a better way to raise funds, given the number of people who drive to Montana just to purchase lottery tickets.

One person dead set against a sales tax increase wrote simply, “We are absolutely opposed to any raised taxes!”

A third topic discussed was the location of a Verizon Wireless cell tower, and those who commented said the suggested location down the alley just east of Red Apple is a good place for the tower.

Entryways

Regarding a fourth topic, most people liked the idea of enhancing the east and west entryways to town, but some worried about the cost.

“If the town did not have so much debt already, I would not object to a grant with 10 percent matching funds for the entryways into town, but we are in debt,” one person wrote. “That money has to come from somewhere.”

The citizen went on to write a preference for “low-growing grass that doesn’t need to be watered,” mixed with wildflower seeds, which would “look nice and not be expensive.” The person worried that the suggested solid fence would simply attract weeds and garbage, which would collect against the fence, causing “a terrible mess.”

One person suggested a drought-resistant rose hedge down both sides of the highway, plus a rock wall with an electronic billboard above it on the east end of town.

Finally, some people weighed in on what to do with the Rose Parade during Mustang Days when Main Street is under construction. Some suggested using Shoshone Avenue, if needed, for the parade, and others suggested Third Street or Fifth Street. Some suggested that the parade could be run on whatever surface exists at the time of the parade.

A couple suggested that Mustang Days could go without a parade for one year.

By David Peck

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