By Susan Van Cleaf
The Minnesota Department of Transportation awarded a construction grant that will pay for installation of new overhead LED lights at Highway 12 intersections in Independence on April 18.
Director Gary Kroells, of West Hennepin Public Safety, brought this news to the Independence City Council at its Tuesday, April 26 meeting.
At the meeting, the council also took up other business. Here are meeting highlights.
Construction crews already have begun installation work on the Highway 12 LED lights, Kroells said. They will make it easier for motorists to see traffic at intersections of Highway 12 with County Road 90, Valley Road, County Roads 92 North and South, Copeland/Haughey Roads and Nelson Road. He expected work to be completed by May 20.
Another Highway 12 safety project “is a go,” Kroells said. Highway 12 will be widened between its intersections with County Roads 92 North and 92 South. Designated turn lanes will be constructed on Highway 12 for motorists turning north or south onto County Road 92. This new feature will get turning vehicles out of the main flow of traffic — a “much needed” safety improvement.
Kroells expected construction on this $500,000 project to begin on July 22 and end around Sept. 1. Crews will work from 7 or 7:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. the next day. Flag workers will funnel traffic down to a single lane during construction times.
He also reported on efforts to get the state legislature to approve a request for $15 million to fund Highway 12 safety improvements. The request has been incorporated into a proposed transportation bonding bill.
“I am optimistic, but realistic,” Kroells said. He noted that the Highway 12 Safety Coalition has been “working well” to get Highway 12 safety improvements.
Last year, the coalition got $600,000 in unbudgeted improvements. Kroells said he anticipates more successes for this year.
Weddings in Pioneer Creek Park
Interim City Administrator Mark Kaltsas reported that Independence does not have a policy for couples who want to get married at Pioneer Creek Park. He asked the City Council for direction on what to do about a request for holding a ceremony there this coming September.
Approximately 200 people would attend the ceremony. The couple already has booked the community room at Independence City Hall for the reception.
City Councilor Linda Betts called the park “a beautiful setting” for a wedding and Mayor Marvin Johnson said he would like to encourage couples to choose the park for their ceremony. The council discussed issues that would need to be addressed in a policy for use of the park for weddings.
The public works department would need to rope off a portion of the park to reserve it for the event, Johnson said. The city might need to charge a small fee for this privilege.
Regulations would be needed to spell out what is allowed during the event, including music or “other aspects of a ceremony that we may want to limit or have information on,” Kaltsas said.
City Councilor Brad Spencer said the city would need a policy on liability for damage at the park and a deposit to cover damages. He suggested that the policy distinguish between someone who is renting both the park and the community center and someone who is renting only the park.
The City Council directed city staff to prepare recommendations for use of the park for events.
Crow River Regional Trail
The City Council passed a resolution supporting the master plan for the Three Rivers Park District Crow River Regional Trail.
A map shows the trail beginning in Minnetrista at the Luce Line State Trail and then heading north through the northeast corner of Watertown Township and the southwest corner of Independence. From there, the trail route runs into Wright County along County Road 17 to Highway 12 at County Road 54.
The long-term preferred alignment has the trail headed north from there to a touch point at the Crow River and then to County Road 30. The next leg runs east along County Road 30 to County Road 139, where it travels north through Lake Rebecca Park Reserve to Rockford.
The proposed Lake Sarah Trail would connect with the Crow River Regional Trail at the northern edge of Lake Rebecca Park.
Large assembly permits
The City Council approved large assembly permits for an Ultimate Frisbee competition at the Polo Grounds on May 7 and 8, a wedding at a private home on Independence Road on May 21 and the Tour de Tonka long-distance bike ride that passes through Independence on Aug. 6.