City of Delafield - Although the project has been approved by the Common Council, its design plans are nearly complete and construction bids are about to be let, opposition to widening Milwaukee Street won't go away, and the opponents are beginning to anger Mayor Ed McAleer.
Despite the protests of some neighbors, the Public Works Committee unanimously agreed Wednesday night, Feb. 6, to approve initial design plans and recommend the city seek construction bids on the approximately $450,000 project.
The road work will extend along Milwaukee Street from Oneida to Oak streets and includes widening the roadway and installing curb and gutters and sidewalks along some portions of the street.
The proposal is a compromise of an original plan that would have widened the street from Oneida to Main Street at a cost of about $900,000.
Although it was approved by the Common Council in November, about a dozen neighbors opposed to the project have continued showing up at council meetings, and attended last week's Public Works Committee meeting, repeating their objections to the project and trying to raise new issues:
They argue that widening the street is unnecessary.
They assert that the city staff and consultants have provided the Common Council and public with inaccurate and misleading information about the cost and justification of the project.
They contend the number of trees that will be destroyed and the amount of environmental damage caused by the project is greater than the city is willing to admit.
State highway engineers who voluntarily serve on the Public Works Committee reiterated they think it is necessary to widen the road by about four feet to protect bikers, hikers and pedestrians who frequently walk the tree-lined route that winds its way through the city's lakefront residential neighborhoods to its downtown business district.
A similar path was added to Milwaukee Street when it was widened several years ago from Golf Road to the Milwaukee-Main Street intersection.
In an interview last week, McAleer said he thinks the group's opposition is politically motivated.
"They are trying to provide a platform for Jackie Velde," he said.
Velde is challenging incumbent Third District Alderwoman Jane Lazynski in the April municipal elections.
Velde's husband, Brian Milsted, one of the leaders of the opposition, vehemently denied McAleer's claim.
"It is a lie," he said.
"I did not want my wife to run for the Common Council, but I do support the decision she made," he said.
"Time and again the mayor has missed the most obvious reason for my working in opposition to the Milwaukee Street project. It is a deeply flawed plan. It is not supported by a majority of the District Three residents who will suffer with the results if it is carried through," Milsted concluded.
During an interview, McAleer drew an unfavorable comparison of Milsted with two other citizen activists, Jim Zahorik and Gerry Holton.
"I worked with Jim Zahorik during the water debates in the 1990s, and I worked with Gerry Holton in the 2000s. I never had a reason to question their sincerity. There were no hidden agendas. I think everyone was working for what they believed was best for the city. This group is different. They are trying to get political leverage," McAleer concluded.
Milsted asked the Public Works Committee to delay approving the design plans so the Common Council could reconsider the project.
He argued that the council should reconsider the project because it was provided "flawed" and "misleading" information from city consultants Yaggy Colby & Associates and City Administrator/Public Works Director Tom Hafner.
He has asserted that pay vouchers submitted by Yaggy Colby & Associates indicate that preliminary design work for the project is over budget. He also said the invoices raise questions about whether other cost projections are accurate.
In addition, he said, email communications between Hafner and Yaggy Colby & Associates indicate that Yaggy Colby might have failed to conduct a complete and accurate account of the number of trees that might have been destroyed when the project was initially proposed.
Milsted and other opponents of the project have said they collected about 100 signatures on petitions from residents opposed to the street widening.
Hafner said that Milsted's statements about the project being over budget are incorrect because Milsted does not understand some of the nuances of municipal budgeting.
City Engineer Mike Court of Yaggy Colby and Associates told the Public Works Committee that the consultants are continuing to work with city officials to reduce the number of high-quality trees that might be destroyed as a result of the project.
Public Works Committee member Patrick Hawley reminded Milsted that the three engineers on the committee have had extensive highway project experience and they think widening the roadway is necessary because of the number of bikers, hikers and pedestrians who use the road, along with motorists.
"We have to keep in mind the safety of everyone who uses the road, not just the residents living along the road," he said.
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