Roundabout plan still generating debate in Mount Vernon

Residents show up to air views at city council meeting

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Some Mount Vernon residents are still speaking out about plans to put in two roundabouts along Highway 30 in the city limits.

At Monday night's city council meeting, a few dozen residents showed up to hear more and voice their opinion on the issue. The public hearing was set to discuss how the project is being funded, but some residents, like Bill Niemi, hoped to persuade the council to stop the project entirely.

"There is no reason to be wasting public tax dollars on infrastructure projects that are not necessary," Niemi said.

Niemi has been posting petitions around the community and also runs a Facebook page and Web site dedicated to stopping the roundabouts in the city. The petitions have collected about 900 signatures so far, Niemi said.

"The best thing they should do with the intersection is just leave it the way it is," he said.

One roundabout is planned for the intersection of Highway 1 and Highway 30, and the other one will be just to the west, at the intersection of Highway 30 and 10th Avenue.

Niemi said if his effort doesn't succeed in stopping the project completely, he would at least rather see stop lights at the intersections, instead of roundabouts.

"We don't see any reason why they couldn't just shift gears and move over to the other proposal," he said. Others also recommended stop lights at Monday's council meeting.

But city council member Slaton Anthony said the roundabouts are necessary when looking at the future of Mount Vernon.

"The roundabouts are part of a larger Highway 30 corridor plan," Anthony said. "The plan is to prepare the city for the community growth over the next 10, 15, and 20 years."

Some residents also stood up to speak in favor of the councilís decision.

Anthony said he believes it was a smart decision for the city to leverage the state funds available.

"If we didn't take the money, we'd lose it," he said. "Once the bypass comes in, it would totally turn upon Mount Vernon to fund all those improvements, whatever we decided that would be."

Anthony also said that roundabouts will urbanize the area, supporting more traffic and allowing businesses to grow.

The project has been in discussion for years, but the city hopes to finally start construction in June.

Despite the project's moving forward, Niemi said he and others will continue to speak out in opposition.

"We feel it's never too late to stop throwing good money after bad," he said.

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