Council’s coffee time a success

Published 5:58 pm Saturday, March 10, 2012

Subject of adding welcome sign west of Austin top issue

The first “Coffee with the Council” went off with a laugh or two and some solutions to resident problems.

Six residents, including County Commissioner Tony Bennett, broke bread with council members at Gymocha Saturday morning.

Council members Jeff Austin, Brian McAlister, Marian Clennon, and Roger Boughton addressed resident concerns over street improvements, welcome signs, neighborhood drag racing and more.

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“It went well,” Clennon said. “I’m excited about the discussion.”

Perhaps the biggest issue at the meeting was Austin’s lack of a proper welcome sign from the west. Though the city has a welcome sign on the east side of town off of Interstate 90, residents said there should be a welcome sign on the western edge.

“You go to small towns and you’ve got better looking signs than we have,” said Howard Nepp.

City council members, especially Clennon, appeared to be in favor of a sign. Mayor Tom Stiehm suggested contingency funds could be used to build a sign though other council members suggested approaching service organizations to fund the project.

Everyone seemed to agree a sign is needed, however.

“It’s kind of a shame when you come into the city, we don’t have anything decent,” Nepp said.

Several residents discussed street improvement projects, asking why city workers picked certain streets over others and when certain projects could be done. Council members and the mayor advised people to call City Engineer Jon Erichson for more explanation and possible pothole solutions. Residents were specifically concerned about putting a yield sign at Oakland Avenue E. and Oakland Place, which they said would decrease accidents in the area.

One resident who lives across the street from ComforCare reported problems with his neighbors carrying on at all hours of the night and drag racing down 17th Street NE while Comforcare residents and neighbors were trying to sleep. Stiehm told him to call police repeatedly, which could increase the police presence in the neighborhood.

“In the city, one person can make a difference when they complain,” Stiehm said. He also highlighted some of the city’s biggest issues, like the N. Main Flood Control project delay until 2013 and the continuing issue of immigration, which he said can’t be solved on a city or county level.

“Nothing can be done until the federal government fixes it,” he said.

Residents seemed pleased with the discussion and glad for the opportunity to speak to council members in an informal setting.

“It went great,” said Marilyn Prenosil. She came to the meeting hoping to see good discussion among council members and residence, which she says is what she saw.

“I felt they were open to discussion,” she said.

The next “Coffee with the Council will take place at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 14, at Coffee House on Main. Council members hope to continue the informal meetings on the second Saturday of every month.