The Ottumwa Courier

February 24, 2014

City Council discusses two-way streets

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa City Council held a special meeting Monday night at 5 p.m. at City Hall in order to have work sessions on several important items. The meeting was not held to act on any of the items, only to gather more information.

The items for discussion in the meeting included the level of signing authority for the City Administrator, a proposed amendment to the Ottumwa Comprehensive Plan, a change to an ordinance included in the City Code and the conversion to two-way streets in downtown Ottumwa.

The change to the ordinance in the Ottumwa City Code has to do with a local purchase option. The ordinance currently states if the city is looking to buy an item and it is both sold locally and on the state bid list, the city must take the local bid if it is within 1 percent of the cost of the item on the state bid, as long as those items have the same set of specifications.

It was recommended to the council that it be raised to 5 percent, but the council seemed to agree it should only be raised to 3 percent. Mayor Tom Lazio said during the discussion that the item will come back up at a future City Council meeting as an action item.

“I think we can live with 3 percent,” Mayor Lazio said. “Let’s give it a try; if we need to do some adjusting, we can do that.”

Probably the most anticipated item on the agenda was the conversion to two-way on Main and Second streets in the downtown area. The construction on McLean Street under the Sewer Separation Project is going to cause portions of Main and Second streets to be changed to two-way temporarily, so it was proposed that the change be made permanent.

The conversion to two-way was met by criticism at several public hearings before the meeting Monday, so Public Works Director Larry Seals said they are scaling back some on the conversion. He said instead of switching to two-way for the whole length of Second and Main streets (from Jefferson Street to McPherson Avenue), they are recommending that the switch only be made from Jefferson Street to Kitterman Avenue. Then, from Kitterman to McPherson, the streets would stay one-way.

During the meeting there was a presentation by a representative from SRF Consulting, who has provided support to the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation for the project, and he addressed some of the main concerns from community members. He said there will not need to be any changes to the parking on the sides of the streets, only that cars will have to park a different way. He also said that trucks loading and unloading on Main and Second will not be allowed, but they could look into making designated parking lanes that trucks could use at certain times.

There were a few community members who stood in front of the council and discouraged the conversion. They all said they do business downtown on a daily basis, and changing from one to two-way would create a lot of traffic congestion.

There was also a reading of the businesses in the district that sent letters of approval of the conversion to the city. There were 21 businesses and organizations from the downtown area that sent in letters stating they were in favor of the switch to two-way.

Bob Untiedt, Executive Director of Main Street Ottumwa, agreed that most businesses in downtown Ottumwa are in favor of the switch, and he commended the city for the work they have done so far.

"More than the majority of downtown businesses are in favor of this," he said during the meeting. "I appreciate the way in which various positions were considered. We all have to work together.

Discussion on all four of the items on the agenda Monday night will continue at future City Council meetings.

— To see reporter Josh Vardaman's Twitter feed, go to @CourierJosh