English River bridge closing discussed at Wellman Council

By Mark Adkins
Posted 3/8/99

Concerns on a variety of issues were voiced to the Wellman City Council at their meeting Monday evening.

At the forefront was the issue of the English River bridge closing on Gingko Avenue. Cindy …

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English River bridge closing discussed at Wellman Council


Concerns on a variety of issues were voiced to the Wellman City Council at their meeting Monday evening.

At the forefront was the issue of the English River bridge closing on Gingko Avenue. Cindy and Steve Duwa, both business owners north of the now-closed bridge, were spokespeople for a large group of worried residents.

“We’re talking about my livelihood,” Cindy Duwa, the owner of a daycare run out of her home north of the bridge, said. “The (Washington County Board of) supervisors just don’t care.”

According to Duwa, an auto accident took the bridge down along Hickory Road. The insurance companies for both parties involved in the accident came to a $45,000 settlement in the matter that, according to Duwa and several residents on hand, the supervisors aren’t going to use to fix the bridge.

“They are just closing another access to my daycare,” she said. “The parents of my children are having to drive out of their way now with the other bridge (along the golf course road) being closed.

“I think it will hurt other businesses in the Wellman area, too,” she added. “People will start going to Kalona for things and I think we, as citizens of Wellman, and the council need to come together and make a stand to fix the Hickory Road bridge.”

Councilman Max Lewis agreed with Duwa.

“We need to make a stand to get the bridge up to par,” he said. “There is a hearing set for Thursday to re-classify the road and vacate it. The board really does need to do something.”

Duwa also pointed to concerns about the local ambulance reaching the area north of the bridge. Following that discussion, several of the parents of children in Duwa’s care commented that they didn’t want to find other alternatives for daycare, that they liked what Cindy did and they had taken a lot of time to find Cindy for her services.

Wellman Volunteer Fire Department chief Jim Seward added that the situation for possible fire calls in the area will be handled by calling Kalona’s department out for assistance.

“It will take us half an hour to 45 minutes to get out to that area now so I hope the local residents understand our position,” he said. “Once we get there, Kalona will be there to help with our water situation because we won’t be able to return to town for water. It is just a bad situation all the way around.”

“Actually, two businesses are being affected by this possible decision by the board,” Steve Duwa, husband of Cindy and owner of a roofing and construction company run out of the Duwa household, said. “If the board decides to re-classify and vacate the road, they won’t even leave the planks up to let the children walk to our home for daycare purposes.

“I think the board would be surprised by the amount of traffic along that road,” he added. “There is no excuse for that bridge not to be open. The city will be hurt if the board pushes this re-classification through. The local businesses won’t be patronized as much.”

Mayor Wilbur Swartzendruber told the concerned group that he and other members of the council will be at the Thursday meeting of the Board of Supervisors to “let the town’s voice be heard” on this issue.

“We can’t make any promises,” he said. “However, the board will know that we have a voice in this matter. They will find out somebody does care about this.”

Property concern raised

The second issue of concern brought to the council dealt with the possible demolition of a building located at 218 B Avenue on mainstreet Wellman.

Property owner Jeff Davidson requested to demolish the building in order to put up a 56x80 foot steel pole building for a business.

“I don’t think the old building is worth saving,” Davidson said. “It would make the whole downtown look better if a new building was put up in that spot. The old building is not in good shape.”

Davidson’s two neighboring property owners, Dr. James T. Palmer (Quad-County Veterinary Clinic), and Jeff Easley (Easley Woodworking), both raised their concerns about the possible demolition.

“I would like the downtown area to look better, too, but I have had two contractors come in and look at that old building saying they weren’t comfortable taking down that old building,” Palmer said. “I don’t want to see two businesses destroyed in order to have one new business come in.

“My biggest concern is that if the demolition of the building drags on and a windstorm comes in, there will be a big problem for myself, there will be a big problem for Jeff (Easley) and a big problem for the city,” he added.

“I think the demolition of the building will take longer than you think it will,” Easley told Davidson. “I am concerned also about the rubble that will be left on my property that could possible incur costs to myself and my business.”

Jeff Davidson and his wife, Tami, both responded that the demolition wouldn’t take that long.

“We want the building taken down soon,” Tami said. “As soon as the old building is down, the new building will go up.”

“It’s not like we haven’t done something like this before,” Jeff said. “We can either hire it done by professionals or we can do some of the things ourselves. Hey, the building is going to fall in sooner or later. I am all for other options on this, though. If you guys want to try and fix it up, I am all for that, too.”

“I don’t see any other steel buildings on main street,” Easley said. “I know the building is in bad shape, but it does keep some integrity to the downtown area.

“What would happen if you would lose interest or run out of money in handling the demolition of the building?” he added.

“I guess then you would have a half-torn down building,” Jeff Davidson responded.

“Is this the attitude the council wants?” Easley asked.

After more discussion was raised by both sides, council member Murval Weidlein reminded both parties that the city can’t do anything in private property issues.

“The three parties must work this out between themselves,”

Swartzendruber said. “You all need to keep the lines of communication open. We don’t want to see any trouble arise from this.”

“I don’t want to see any trouble, either,” Davidson said. “I have covered all of the corners and am doing things by the book. I am not trying to cause anyone any harm. I just feel something needs to be done with the building.”

Easley added his concerns about the fact that it appeared the city didn’t care about the matter.

“You have no zoning and no codes dealing with this type of issue,” he said. “You are are leaving yourself wide open for trouble.”

Swartzendruber ended the discussion by commenting that he, again, “wanted to see the lines of communication be open” between all parties in the matter.

Activities Complex deadline set

Residents also spoke to the council about wanting to see a deadline set for the activities complex issue.

Lewis got the discussion started when he stated that the money the city is putting up for the complex could be used in other areas.

Resident Keith Semler asked Weidlein, a member of the Wellman Area Foundation board, how much money the foundation has.

“We have about half of our pledges right now ($150,000),” she responded. “The residents that made the pledges are committed to paying them but they are waiting to see where the project is going.”

Weidlein added the foundation board is meeting Saturday to discuss the options presented by Rohrbach.

Seward added that “if the money is in hand, let’s get the building built.”

“It always seems like we are going ring-around-the-rosy with this issue,” he said. “I was here a few months back and there was the same discussion. What is the hold up?”

Resident Lindy Redlinger, also a member of the WAF board, countered Seward’s question.

“The council is just as much at fault for this,” he said. “(The board) is always waiting around for an answer.”

Council member Jelene McCain told Seward and the other residents that some of the hold up is over architect Steve Rohrbach’s comments that now is a “bad environment” for bidding the project out to contractors.

“We heard that six months ago,” Seward said. “If the money is there, put it on the table and get the job done.”

Swartzendruber finished the discussion by saying that a decision, one way or another, would be reached by the April 19 meeting of the council.

Other items

In other items, the council:

• approved a request by Wellman Telephone Company to install two antenna panels on the city water tower for digital service communications.

• tabled a decision on Senior Dining Center benefits until the center committee looked into the issue.

• approved putting up the old city backhoe for bids.

• approved hiring Chris Huston as utilities clerk for $6.50 an hour.

• approved having Swartzendruber interview the three current city employees (Ron Davis, Phil Slaubaugh and Brad Schaver) to fill the position of Public Works Director recently vacated by the retirement of Bob Kuhns.

• approved setting Kuhns’ wages at $10.50 an hour (part-time) and Huston’s wages at $6.50 an hour as Resolution 99-09.

• was instructed by Swartzendruber to get drawings and ideas for the new city vehicle decals back to city clerk Donna Wade or Schaver.

• instructed Schaver to keep sidewalk work east of the Lutheran Church open until the council heard a report from Kuhns and Slaubaugh on the matter.

• heard an update on the sewer plant situation in the city. The council approved having an outside contractor come in and haul sludge out of the plant area.

• was informed by council member J. Carl Yoder that the zoning committee is meeting Wednesday at 7 p.m.

• was informed that the Wellman Telephone Company is preparing to overbuild on Triax’s cable franchise in the city to put themselves in direct competition with the cable company. A conference call between the city and Triax representatives is set for Wednesday.

• instructed Schaver to go ahead and order trees for 15 residents that were interested in having new trees put up on their property as part of a city beautification project.

• instructed city maintenance crews to clean up an area east of the Bob McCain residence and to finish the stucco work in the library.

• was informed by McCain that the council does need to have an information session with the city about Y2K.

• postponed a seal-coating project on Ninth Avenue until the plumbing work under the street is addressed.

• was informed by Swartzendruber that he may purchase a jackhammer and compressor for the city at an auction he will be handling in Waterloo this week.