Lynne Hermansen
Special to The Gardner News
The Gardner council voted Dec. 21 to extend their design contract with Affinis Corp for the Waverly Road, 175th Street to Madison project.
Affinis presented the original design of a roundabout at Waverly and Madison last July.
The city held a public hearing on Sept. 21 to receive comments and feedback from the community, school district and fire department.
A consensus of building a standard intersection was reached at the end of the public hearing.
The school district had stated concerns for student safety. The fire department had said they were concerned about safety, and their trucks not being able to fit around the roundabout.
The extended contract is for Affinis Corporation to design the standard intersection at Waverly and Madison and to design road improvements to Waverly between Santa Fe and US-56 Highway.
The contract cost is for $40,950.
Rich Melton, council member, said he was against the roundabout and had to consider the amount of emails, people who spoke against it at the public hearing and the school district and fire department’s feedback.
Mark Baldwin, council member, said he was for the roundabout being built.
“It’s not popular, I’ll give you that,” he said. “The intersection wasn’t compelling to me, and we are kicking the can.”
Steve Shute, mayor, said he had other issues with it, and the fire district’s arguments against the roundabout were not convincing.
“The real problem is when we are being told to spend more money by people not paying taxes, and doesn’t provide a viable or better solution,” he said.
Tim McEldowney, engineer, said fire trucks and departments in other places navigate around roundabouts all the time and is a non-issue for them.
Kristen Leathers-Grattis, Affinis principal engineer, said they use a software program that helps figure out wheel staffs and road dimensions a fire truck and school bus can navigate.
Shute said Affinis had been working with the school district.
He said he wanted to know about the previous suggestion of an additional crossing guard.
Jim Pruetting, administrator, said if another guard is needed they will add one.
Lee Krout, Gardner police, said “It’s not a huge cost,” he said. “We would never stick just one out there by themselves.”
Shute said they had been told by engineers a standard intersection was not a sustainable solution for the long-term.
“We will be in the same spot 10-15 years from now,” he said.
Todd Winters, council president, said the school was adamantly concerned about safety.
McEldowney said the discussion for safety was important, but engineers study roundabouts and they are safer for pedestrians and intersections.
He also said a roundabout is more expensive until an intersection needs a traffic signal.
Winters said he was concerned about elementary school children and high school drivers being in the same spot.
Tory Roberts, council member, said she thinks studies are a tool and opinions are a tool.
“We need to weigh what both options are going to be,” she said.
Baldwin said roundabouts are safer for walkers, drivers and bikers.
“Facts don’t care about feelings,” he said.
Earlier in the meeting a consent agenda item to execute annual on-call agreements for traffic engineering and storm water services as needed was pulled for further discussion before passing.
Baldwin said he was hesitant to agree to a service if the city wasn’t going to follow the information and services given.
“I don’t see the point of paying money for something we are going to disregard,” he said.
Winters said he needed Baldwin to expand more.
Baldwin said he was referring to the contract with Affinis for the roundabout design as an example.
“The study was presented twice by a traffic consultant, and we chose something not to improve and will cost more money,” he said. “It doesn’t follow logic.”
Baldwin said if the city was going to disregard studies then they didn’t need the services.
Randy Gregorcyk, council member, said he agreed with Baldwin.
“If we are pro property rights as the City of Gardner we need to look at those base decisions of those outside the community,” he said.
Melton said the body voted for a roundabout, and they led the consultant to a roundabout.
Gregoryck said he thought there was a certain amount of leading.
“We did lead them not to a roundabout but to an intersection for the safety of children,” he said.
Baldwin said the city should have a valid reason why they were disregarding a consultant’s data.
“We need to understand what we are really asking from them (consultants),” he said.

The council also passed the following:
-Two ordinances levying and assessing maximum special assessments for two properties of the Hilltop Ridge Improvement Project. The properties are for the formation of a benefit district.
-A resolution for a commercial facility financed with the City’s Industrial Revenue Bonds Series 2018.
-Several pieces of land were voluntarily annexed by the landowners to the city as a last minute addition to the meeting’s agenda. The property addresses are: 30056 W. 199th St, 30158 W 199th St, 30260 W 199th St and 29852 W 199th St.
-The city will purchase 34 taser 7 devices through a five year contract with Axon.
Krout said the money comes out of the 2021 budget if the city signs before January when the rates increase.
He said the tasers are $60 each.