By Bob Balgemann
BELVIDERE – The longstanding question of how best to address parking at the public safety building (PSB) on Main Street will remain unanswered for at least three more weeks.
City council aldermen voted 5-4 Feb. 15 to table an ordinance that would eliminate parking on Menomonie Street and reserve 12 current parking spaces on Main Street for law enforcement vehicles.
Alderman Ron Brooks’ motion was supported by aldermen Clint Morris, Tom Ratcliffe, George Crawford and Clayton Stevens. Dissenting were aldermen Dan Snow, John Sanders, Daniel Arevalo and Wendy Franks. Alderman Mark Sanderson was absent.
The matter could be taken off the table at the March 7 council meeting.
Key law enforcement officials spoke against the ordinance at Monday’s meeting.
Sheriff David Ernest said he was “really shocked” when he heard about the proposal to have officers park further away from the building. The proposal, he said, has the potential “to affect all residents of Boone County.”
He said the courthouse has more employees, courtrooms and trials than ever before.
“We need more parking, not less,” he said. “I urge you to reject this ordinance.”
Chief Deputy John Pollock said his question was, “Why? Why eliminate parking on Menomonie? There has been parking there for the 30 years I’ve been going in and out of there.”
He said there never has been a safety issue, nor has a traffic study ever been conducted. He called the proposal “a foolish action.”
Belvidere Police Chief Jan Noble stood with the sheriff’s officials. He cautioned aldermen “to heed what is going on here.” The proposal pushes employees further away from the public safety building, which is shared by the sheriff’s office and police department, and also houses 9-1-1 emergency dispatchers.
Vandalism a concern
Another high-ranking official, city Deputy Chief Tony Martin, said he was “vehemently opposed” to sending civilian employees out to Main Street parking after dark. Vandalism to police cars, valued at $47,000 including equipment, also was a concern.
While crime was not considered to be a problem around the PSB, he said from a risk management standpoint civilian employees could run into some potentially problem people outside the jail, which also is part of the PSB complex.
No one disagreed with the need for more parking in that area.
Alderman Snow suggested eliminating green space around Menominee, returning to angle parking that has two-way traffic. Alderman Sanders said he agreed with Snow on that one.
There had been other suggestions in the past that nobody wanted to do, Alderman Crawford reminded officials.
Mayor Mike Chamberlain opened the floor to residents, who had addressed the issue in council chambers in recent months, to see if they wanted to be heard again.
Nearby resident Shirley Mills claimed officials were concerned about police and not jurors, or residents who lived near the complex.
“I have been approached by people coming out of the county jail,” she said. “You want your employers to be closer to the building so they are safer.”
Yet she added she didn’t believe her neighborhood was safe.
Chief Noble said people leaving the jail direct their anger at law enforcement, not residents living nearby. “Police officers wearing uniforms are targets, not residents,” he said.
Another resident asked for a vote on the issue.
“I’m tired of this,” she said.
Mayor Chamberlain suggested working with traffic experts at the Rockford Metropolitan Agency on Planning. That regional organization recently formed a planner’s round table, of which Gina DelRose, associate planner for the city and county, is a charter member.
Such contact may still be made despite the vote to table.
Of the council’s decision, the mayor said, “What we’ve done is muddy the waters more.”

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