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Traffic signs cluttering downtown

The Park Rapids City Council thinks there are too many signs cluttering the downtown. After the Main Avenue reconstruction project there will be fewer signs. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

Park Rapids will have very little signage downtown after the Main Avenue reconstruction project.

The Park Rapids City Council reviewed its downtown signage after Scott Wilson, with Park Theater, approached the board last month saying it was inconsistent.

He requested the council reimburse him for a towing fee and impound fee after a vehicle was towed in February. He thought the council should reimburse the fees because there wasn't a sign saying no parking for snow removal right in front of the theater, where the vehicle was parked. Also, the city had plowed downtown the night before.

Public works superintendent Scott Burlingame said the night the vehicle was towed was when crews were scraping ice off the road from curb to curb. In order to do this, vehicles need to be moved, he said.

The council denied the request for reimbursement.

City staff has worked to create a new sign plan to coincide with the downtown construction project.

"We went to task with one major goal, to take an inventory of what kind of signage we have out there and identify what our needs are," said city engineer Jon Olson at Tuesday's council meeting. "We went out there, did a thorough walkthrough and identified two needs: one being no u-turns and the second being no parking during the off peak hours."

The off peak hours were identified from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m.

"That gives the maintenance crews an opportunity to get out onto the street and do any maintenance that they may have. Snow removal in the winter, street sweeping in the summer, if they have to clean sanitary lines they can get into those manholes fairly easily during those hours," he said. "It's a nice window for the staff to get in and maintain anything they might need to."

Olson noted a great deal of inconsistency in downtown signage.

"That would be the main project," he said. "To clean up the signage that's in place, start fresh and really make it as clean as possible."

He came up with three options for the council to consider.

The first option included a crosswalk sign and no U-turn sign on one pole at each intersection. No parking signs from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. with arrows pointing each direction would be placed along each side of the street.

The second option included a no U-turn sign at each intersection and no parking signs from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. along each side of the street.

The third option included a no U-turn sign and no parking sign from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. in the downtown area on one pole at each intersection.

Mayor Nancy Carroll asked police chief Terry Eilers if he had a recommendation about signage that would help in enforcing parking in downtown.

"As long as it's signed to some degree, a visible sign, I believe that we would have the ability to enforce the no parking throughout the corridor," he said.

The impound fee is $50 and towing fee can be close to $90, Eilers said.

"The biggest thing downtown is that you have so many rental units," he said. "I don't know what you're going to do with those people. They're usually pretty good when there's snow removal but once in a while you'll get someone."

People who live downtown need to park somewhere, he said.

Often, Eilers said, from 2 to 5 a.m. officers don't tow people. They could tow more but he doesn't know if that's how the council wants them spending their time.

"A few signs here and there are adequate in my opinion," Eilers said.

Citizen Dick Rutherford asked the council if the signs would be enforced full time or part time.

"If you enforce it today and not next week..." he suggested.

"We only enforce it probably in the winter," Burlingame said. "I don't think we've ever towed anyone for street sweeping."

Councilman Paul Utke said he's in favor of having as few signs as possible downtown.

"It would be nice for street sweeping if you didn't have to go around them but, yes, with all the apartments, it's tough to do," he said. "People usually realize that when there's a snowstorm they have to move but beyond that they're not going to think of it."

The no U-turn signs, for example, are hard to enforce, Utke said.

"I'm in favor of just taking them down and not cluttering up our street," he said. "Having just the bare minimum so people know what to do but not having so much clutter."

"State law says you can't make a U-turn at a signaled or signed intersection," Eilers said. "We certainly could make U-turns at the open intersections."

Utke said there typically isn't a problem if someone makes a U-turn in downtown.

"If there's somebody who's violating it royally, the officers will have a reason to talk to them anyway," he said.

Eilers said he wasn't concerned about U-turns downtown.

"If we were having accidents and stuff then we might have to get a little stronger on it," he said. "Our Main street is pretty safe."

The council decided to only have no parking signs for 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. for snow removal. There will be one sign in the middle of each block on each side of the street.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561