Archived Story

Editorial: Commissioners are micromanaging

Published 9:53am Friday, September 7, 2012

Dan Belshan, the chairman of the Freeborn County Board of Commissioners, talks a lot of talk about how the Albert Lea and Freeborn County governments need to work together more often.

So why did he lead a charge to do exactly the opposite when it came to decisions regarding road construction on the north end of Bridge Avenue? What side of this issue is he on?

Elected officials and engineering staff from the city and county formed a committee. This committee was not just another talk session. It produced actual results by coming up with three major recommendations for that corridor: Connect the west-side-of-the-road Plaza Street to east-side-of-the-road Plaza Street, place any cost of a requested stoplight at Bridge Avenue and Sykes Street onto the developer and make Bridge Avenue safer by not increasing the number of access points.

In other words, the committee agreed — i.e., city and county leaders working together — that adding a right-turn lane to where Kwik Trip plans to build will cause drivers to make more traffic maneuvers, thus slowing down the Bridge Avenue corridor for all traffic, causing more crashes than what already happens.

So what does Belshan and commissioners Mike Lee and Jim Nelson do? Vote for a right turn lane for the Kwik Trip station, completely against the wishes of the joint committee and completely opposite of their campaign promises stating the county and city should work together.

Neither Belshan, Lee nor Nelson have any expertise in traffic management or civil engineering, yet they want to micromanage the people who do. More importantly, their decision likely will cost taxpayers in the future, because as the traffic increases at that intersection, the corridor becomes more unsafe. Guess who they are going to ask to fix the problem? County taxpayers.

County and city leaders have an opportunity to look at what’s best for the entire north-end Bridge Avenue corridor. Studies going back to the 1970s have said additional access points would be hazardous for the street’s traffic.

Belshan, Lee and Nelson looked at the turn lane as an isolated piece and weren’t considering what was best for the business district as a whole. Worse yet, they wouldn’t even defer to the view of Commissioner Christopher Shoff, whose district the proposed Kwik Trip station would be in. So not only are these three rogue commissioners not working with county staff and city staff, they aren’t even working with fellow commissioners.

We urge them to stop making their votes based on what’s being said at coffee shops and start being leaders by building a community consensus. Let’s not spend money twice. Let’s do what’s right for safety and for the long term.