A $6.8 million dollar water, sewer and street project planned on Cleveland Avenue West in Winnebago has become a homeowner’s crusade for his trees.
On Monday, Rodney Yates was among some 25 homeowners who attended an open house hosted by Matt Cole of Bolton & Menk, the city’s engineer in charge of the project.
At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, Yates told council members he was surprised to learn the project was more than just replacing water and sewer lines that are at least 80 years old.
“Honestly, I’m trying to control my anger. I’m really mad. I didn’t know you were widening the street and taking down 51 trees,” says Yates.
Cole says Cleveland Avenue is 32 feet wide and will be expanded by 8 feet to meet what has been the city’s standard the past 30 years.
“I don’t understand who benefits from widening the road,”says Yates. “I’m going to fight it. I really don’t like to fight stuff, I really don’t. I’d love someone to tell me who benefits from this.”
Cole says the trees located on the city-owned boulevards, two which are in front of Yates’ home, interfere with water and sewer lines or may be in the way of the project’s construction.
Police Chief Eric Olson says the street needs to be widened so it’s easier for police, fire and ambulance department crews responding to an emergency call.
“It’s hard to get by some of these vehicles when you’re coming down the road and they’re in the way, even with your lights on,” says Olson. “There’s more you have to be on guard for in trying to get to an emergency.”
Council member Jean Anderson says driving on Cleveland Avenue isn’t very safe at times.
“It is a disaster and dangerous, especially when the sun is in your eyes,” she says. “I’ve had several close calls and I don’t even go down that street often.”
Cole says some trees will still need to be removed even if the street is not widened.
Council member Calvin Howard shares Yates’ frustration saying, “It stinks. I’m going to lose some trees myself. Its (the project) got to get done.”
Cole agreed to meet with Yates to discuss a possible solution and says other homeowners with concerns will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
Discussion of the project also involved sidewalks and Cole says there are plans for no sidewalks on the south side of the street to save money.
Before considering a resolution to proceed with the project, Cole told the council that construction costs are higher and delaying the project would increase the price tag.
He says the $8.9 million infrastructure project completed in the northwest part of town would cost $20 million today.
Council members approved a resolution to begin the bid opening process on Aug. 2 with a three-week minimum. Cole says he expects construction would be finished by the end of 2024.