County engineer addresses city traffic concerns

Chisago County Engineer Joe Triplett was asked to attend the Dec. 10 Stacy City Council meeting to address some dissatisfaction with the changes to the intersection of Forest Boulevard and Stacy Trail.

Triplett had sent the council a memo that detailed three revisions of the configuration of the intersection and proposed changes. Part of Triplett’s memo read, “As we discussed, this project is our opportunity to not only address current, existing traffic patterns and movements, but it is our opportunity to try to plan for future conditions.”

Triplett spoke to the council about the difference between the three configurations.

His recommendation is to abide by the traffic study that was conducted and the configuration that was done as a result of the study. This traffic study and the intersection changes were the subject of a Nov. 26 council meeting. Triplett reported at this meeting that Traffic Data Inc. had conducted the study and engineers with Stantec, the city’s contract engineering firm, had analyzed the data. The study reported an average of 11,000 vehicles pass through the intersection daily, which the city of Stacy continues to dispute.

“This is all forecasted and predicted like the weather,” Triplett said.

The study concluded a traffic signal would be required within the next 20 years, based on the projections. A roundabout had been considered and was deemed to a viable option because of the volume of traffic.

Mayor Mark Utecht said he was concerned about the northeast corner, the problem of a pole outside of the Rustic Inn that Xcel Energy owns. Triplett has proposed moving the pole, and Xcel has agreed to do the work ahead of the traffic lanes being reconfigured.

“Since the state is paying for this, do we have any input as to how these lanes are configured?” the mayor asked.

Triplett responded in the affirmative; the county will have to provide a report to MnDOT, but decisions regarding the configuration are decided at the local level.

“In my opinion, the new configuration without any controls is not good,” Councilor Jim Ness said.

He cautioned there is no such thing as a safe intersection; it completely depends on drivers following the rules of the road.

“We are working toward a signalized intersection,” Triplett said. Ness questioned the safety of a vehicle turning left, citing what he thought was a poor turning radius. Large trucks are clipping the corners, necessitating the ongoing attempts to configure traffic lanes. Heavy traffic volume, especially on summer evenings, was cited as the justification for the left turn lane proposals.

There was a concern of the impact on businesses close to the intersection as well. Triplett said he is working with businesses to address their concerns and the concerns of residential property owners nearby.

A resolution had been drafted to adopt  the first of the three configurations, identified as Figure 1. Ness made a motion to integrate figures 1 and 2. After brief discussion and objections by the mayor, Ness’ proposal failed on a 2-3 vote.

Councilor Michael Carlson countered with a motion to pass the resolution as it stands, with construction and striping according to Triplett’s Figure 1. This motion passed 3-2. The discussion concluded with references to Triplett’s memo: “As traffic volumes continue to rise, our challenge continues to be how to manage it as best as possible while trying to reduce the impact on the community.”


In other news

•A local news channel had reported this week that the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office have both purchased what are called cellular exploitation devices that allow the agencies to lift cellphone data. Local law enforcement can buy hardware that acts as a cellphone tower and they can intercept any signal.

“I heard about this news story about law enforcement getting cell phone data from phone companies. I don’t like that idea, and I would like the council to consider an ordinance not allowing that for the city of Stacy,” Utecht said. He added, “Unless you have a warrant, you shouldn’t be listening to my telephone.”

Councilor Michael Carlson agreed with the mayor.

“At a minimum, they should have to go to a court and ask,” he said.

City Attorney Peter Grundhoefer suggested at the local level an ordinance could refer to or prohibit “data dumping.”

“I just want it so law enforcement can’t do it,” Utecht said. “It’s surveillance without probable cause; it’s that simple.”

Ness asked if the city has that authority and how the city would prevent the practice or enforce an ordinance. Ness questioned if this would cost the city for something it cannot prevent. Carlson requested the council try to invite local law enforcement representatives to a council meeting just to ask questions about the practice.

• A motion to approve the 2014 Stacy city budget passed unanimously. The 2014 levy was finalized at $393,356, slightly less than the 2013 levy of $402,090. There are slight reductions in the Economic Development Authority budget, cost of improvement bonds and the street improvement project budget.

•The Stacy Planning Commission will be considering an ordinance to allow residents to keep chickens in the city at the next meeting on Jan. 21, 2014.

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