Council tables matter of safety equipment for crossing

NEW ULM — The New Ulm City Council Tuesday tabled a grant application that would lead to installing safety equipment for pedestrians crossing Broadway.

This is the second time the council has tabled it, but for a new reason. The council is waiting to hear about state grants that could fund a rectangular rapid flashing beacon (RRFB) on Broadway and Fourth South Street sooner.

“I think I was the one that was initially against this, not because I am against safety, but just the fact that I had not heard of anybody requesting this flashing beacon,” Council member Les Schultz said. “Since that meeting I have heard from quite a group of people including parents of kids and joggers and bikers that do cross from one side or the other.”

A survey distributed through the schools, the Heart of New Ulm project, the city and the Chamber of Commerce about the RRFB received 289 responses.

Of those that responded, 37 percent said they or their child would use the RRFB to get to school versus 48 percent that said no and 10 percent that responded maybe.

When asked if the respondent or their child would use it to access amenities on the east side of Broadway, responses were, 40 percent yes, 48 percent no and 13 percent maybe.

When the same question was posed about the west side of Broadway, the response was 40 percent yes, 47 percent no and 13 percent maybe.

Responses may not add up to 100 percent due to rounding and respondents being able to skip individual questions.

The grant being considered was a federal grant that would fund a project in 2022. It would cover 80 percent of the estimated $125,000 or $100,000, and the city would cover the remainder.

The city would also have to pay for the preliminary and construction engineering estimated at $15,000. Maintenance is estimated at $2,500 per year on the high end, City Engineer Steve Koehler said.

During the meeting, the council was made aware of an alternative. The city could instead apply for a state grant through the Safe Routes to School program.

The council can apply by November 2018 and, if successful, receive funding for a 2019 installation, three years earlier than the federal grant timeline. The state grant should cost the city about the same as the federal, Koehler said.

In other news, the council approved a motion supporting the J1 Visitor Exchange Visa Program. According to a document from The Alliance for International Exchange that was attached to the council’s minutes, advisors in President Donald Trump’s administration are seeking to eliminate the visa program.

The council supported the resolution on the argument that elimination of the program would hurt the Hans Joohs Cultural Exchange Program.

“We have utilized a [different] visa program in the past and found it to be cumbersome, hard to process and we moved over to the J1 visitor exchange visa program because it was easier and faster,” City Manager Brian Gramentz said.

The previous visa system had more stringent requirements and left the program unsure if the intern would be able to come until the last minute, Gramentz said.

Connor Cummiskey can be emailed at ccummiskey@nujournal.com.

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