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Mt. Vernon - Some Mt. Vernon residents are still speaking out about plans to put in two roundabouts along Highway 30 in Mt. Vernon. 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 designated 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 website dedicated to stopping the roundabouts in the city. "The best thing they should do with the intersection is just leave it the way it is," he said. Niemi told TV9 they've collected about 900 signatures so far.
One roundabout is planned for the intersection of Highway 1 and Highway 30. The other one will be just to the west, at 10th avenue intersection. Niemi said if they don't stop the project all together, he would at least rather 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 Mt.Vernon. "The roundabouts are part of a larger Highway 30 Corridor plan put together. The plan is to prepare the city for the community growth over the next 10,15, and 20 years," Anthony said. Some Mt. Vernon residents at the council meeting stood up to speak in favor of the council's decision.
Anthony believes that 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. Once the bypass comes in, it would totally turn upon Mt. Vernon to fund all those improvements, whatever we decided that would be," he said. Anthony also told TV9 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 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.