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Dalton Gardens council declines idea to turn 4th into one-way

by CRAIG NORTHRUP
Staff Writer | December 3, 2020 1:06 AM

The Dalton Gardens City Council declined to move forward with traffic reduction measures Tuesday night, instead saying the city would likely focus its efforts on speed reduction.

The council considered three measures that would have attempted to address traffic reduction: one to approve non-binding resolution to show a commitment to reducing traffic, one to consider measures that would essentially turn Fourth Street into a one-way, and one that would have shut off Wilbur Avenue at Government Way.

In a contentious debate, council member Carrie Chase pushed for traffic measures for the second consecutive meeting Tuesday, the first of which spurned a Nov. 18 workshop. Chase's Tuesday proposal would have considered possibly converting main thoroughfares into one-way streets in an effort to stem commuters from using Fourth Street as a more leisurely way home than U.S. 95 or Government Way.

“When we ran for office,” Chase said, “we promised the residents that we would pursue and secure permanent reductions in through-traffic from other communities by all available means. We gave them our word. It’s why we were voted in.”

Chase asked for a roll call among her fellow council members to pledge their allegiance to reducing traffic, a tactic that was met with resistance by her colleagues.

“What I want to know is, what is the will of council now, today?” she asked. “Is council willing to honor the commitment that we made to the residents a year ago, before we got elected in: a commitment to the reduction of through-traffic by all available means? This doesn’t have to be an action item; it really is just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question. Are you committed to the reduction of through-traffic in Dalton Gardens? It really is just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question.”

Mayor Dan Edwards bristled at the pledge, saying traffic reduction can’t be reduced to a binary answer.

“You can have a discussion,” Edwards said. “It’s not just a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ You can have a discussion on it. It’s not that cut-and-dried, Mrs. Chase. That’s not how it works around here.”

Council member Robert Wuest said he wanted to work with incoming Kootenai County Sheriff Bob Norris to help the city potentially negotiate street patrol.

“With the new sheriff in town and Ben (Wolfinger about to retire), we need to meet with the mayor … figure out how to do a patrol. We have the budget to do that in savings. I ran on keeping it rural.”

“It’s a simple answer,” council member Ray Craft said, “but I have a question on ‘all available means.’ You and I have talked before. I don’t want other counties or cities to dictate to us, but I want to keep a working relationship with them. By you saying, ‘All available means,’ there’s certain things I’m not in favor of, in terms of traffic reduction, but I am in favor of traffic reduction.”

Chase then urged to consider turning Fourth Street into a pair of one-ways: northbound at Dalton Avenue and southbound at Prairie Avenue. The move would have also considered partially closing the northbound access of 15th Street at Dalton Avenue. She also urged for the final resolution to pass, which would have allowed outside engineers to begin design, thus enabling council to eventually vote on the final plans.

Council member Aaron O’Brien cited the Nov. 18 workshop, the list of citizens who spoke Tuesday night in opposition to the plan, and to a community survey as his rationale for opposing going forward.

“After listening to workshop (attendees) and listening to our citizens and listening to the survey, I don’t support closing the main roads,” O’Brien said. “I do not want to spend engineering money on a plan that the majority of citizens I’ve spoken with say they don’t want.”

Chase quickly rebutted, saying that only 20-or-so residents attended the workshop and shouldn’t qualify as a ‘majority.’ But others joined in to voice their opposition to such a plan, including Wuest, who equated turning Fourth Street into a one-way without a substantive plan backing it to chasing a rabbit down a hole.

“I want to try law enforcement,” Wuest said, “and I want to try the transportation plan. We’re shooting in a blind here.”

When asked to consider additional studies, Chase insisted enough studies have already been performed. But Edwards said that the people have spoken, however, and he criticized council for making the agenda items a running theme in their meetings, calling the continued campaign the result of a personal agenda.

“We’ve already done a survey,” Edwards said. “We’ve had workshops. The word has come back that our citizens do not want road closures. They don’t want to do this. And I don’t know why council keeps pushing forward with spending our tax dollars on these items, such as reducing traffic. Once you start closing one road, it’s like a domino effect. It’s going to impact every single roadway in our city if you start closing and messing around with each outlet, unless you close off every single outlet to (non-residents).”