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Akeley work group will explore options for Hwy. 34 project

This one of many possible design ideas for the Hwy. 34 project in Akeley in 2022. While still four years away, a work group is being formed to start looking at options for the road.

Akeley residents had the opportunity to share their ideas and concerns about the proposed 2022 Highway 34 reconstruction project at Wednesday night's council meeting.

District Planning Engineer Darren Laesch and Project Manager Laura Hadrava from the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) discussed various options to make the stretch of highway from Hill Street to Hwy. 64 safer for both drivers and pedestrians.

"There is nothing definite yet," Hadrava said. "This is four years down the road. This is a good opportunity to redo your downtown and determine what you want the city of Akeley to look like."

One option is narrowing the highway, which currently has 16-foot-wide driving lanes and 15-feet parking lanes to two 12-foot traffic lanes and 10- or 12-foot parking lanes. This option would make the road easier for pedestrians to cross, as well as create some "green space" in that area. Grass will be planted by MnDOT, with trees and other beautification aspects paid for by the city.

"Less open space means slower speeds," Laesch said.

Other improvements discussed included widening parking near the Paul Bunyan statue and adding sidewalks and lighting.

The reason the road is so wide is that in the late 1950s and early 1960s there used to be angle parking, according to a longtime resident who attended the meeting.

Another option is a roundabout or a mini-roundabout. Concerns were expressed about all of the "wide loads" going through Akeley, including logging trucks and manufactured homes and whether they could use these roundabouts or would have to take another route.

Where traffic would be detoured was another issue considered, since the last road project detour reportedly "destroyed" the road the detour was on.

Hadrava explained that there could be one detour for small vehicles so businesses don't lose out and another for trucks. She said they will also work around Paul Bunyan Days and other city events as much as possible.

Another aspect that the road project may address is drainage in the area when the road is torn up.

Hadrava suggested a working group of two council members and interested community members to explore the different options.

"This is a critical year to make these decisions," she said.

Anyone interested may contact the city office.

In other action, the city council did the following:

• Heard Tim Scouton is the new treasurer for the East Hubbard County Fire Department and will be using Excel for budget reporting.

• Discussed looking at step levels for Municipal Liquor Store employees and plan to talk more about it at next month's meeting.

• Approved council members to the following assignments: Acting mayor, Dan Riggs; fire board commissioners, Bobbie Wosika and Riggs (Brian Hitchcock alternate); public works commissioners Margaret Bond-Vorel and Riggs); liquor commissioners, Wosika and Billy Krotzer; economic development commissioner, Hitchcock; parks and recreation commissioner, Krotzer; public streets commissioners, Bond-Vorel and Riggs; ordinance commissioners, Krotzer and Bond-Vorel; public event commissioners, Bond-Vorel and Wosika.

• Adopted consignments as follows: First National Bank of Walker as depository; Steve Bolton as city attorney, Northwoods Press as newspaper; David Johnson as assessor; Justin, Clasen and Company as auditor; Pederson, Smith and Roehl as payroll auditor and Headwaters Animal Shelter as official dog pound.

• Set 2018 mileage reimbursement at 54.5 cents per mile.

• In old business, discussed a license agreement for retaining wall and septic drain field encroaching on the south half of Third Street that is owned by the city.

• Requested an update on bathrooms at Paul Bunyan Park in February.

• Tabled a resolution authorizing the city of Akeley to contribute funds to the Hubbard County Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) prevention program.

• Scheduled the audit for March 12-13.

• Set the board of appeal and equalization meeting for April 18 at 1 p.m.

• Set their regular meeting schedule for 6 p.m. the second Wednesday of every month at city hall.