Snowy parking

Snowy parking


By Bob Balgemann


BELVIDERE – An open house one hour before the start of the bimonthly Belvidere City Council meeting showcased a parking plan for Menomonie Street, prepared by a federally-funded consultant.

The Rockford Metropolitan Agency for Planning (RMAP) came up with the proposal that elected and appointed officials will study before another public meeting is held.

The need for more parking in a safe environment around the Public Safety Building at 615 N. Main St. was the primary focal point of the plan.

Menomonie Street is in the Fourth Ward, represented by Aldermen Ron Brooks and George Crawford. The RMAP suggestions included the following:

Angle parking along Menomonie, “pretty much the way it is now,” Alderman Brooks said.

Remove the existing grassy area to allow more parking.

Create six horizontal parking spaces on the north side of Menomonie and 12 angle parking spaces on the south side.

Brooks said he still wasn’t happy with the proposal but added, “the majority rules.”

A retired Illinois state trooper who served for 30 years, he said safety, especially in the winter, was his primary concern. He envisioned problems along Menomonie, especially when there’s lots of snow and cars are covered. “You’re backing out and it’s like downtown, when you back out and pray a lot,” he said.

Nearby residents “were 50/50” on the plan, he said. “People who use it every day are skeptical,” he said. “There will be another meeting. This was just the first one. You’ll just need to be careful when driving through there.”

A previous plan that included the creation of 12 new parking spaces on Main Street, for law enforcement, drew opposition from some aldermen, residents, and such law enforcement officials as Belvidere Police Chief Jan Noble and Boone County Sheriff Dave Ernest.

Chief Noble was the only one of those officials to attend the open house.

Chief Noble said he thought the RMAP presentation was well rounded and based on the concerns expressed earlier by residents of East Menomonie Street and the city.

The original concern of residents was losing two-way traffic, but now that has been restored, which made them happy, he said. He added that a few came up to him after the meeting and said they thought the proposal would be a good fix.

From a law enforcement standpoint, he said angle parking would be maintained.

RMAP is a public sector consultant that is funded by the federal government.

Executive Director Michael Dunn Jr. said the organization is geared to serving as a conduit for long-term planning processes, while giving taxpayers “a larger return for their buck.”

He encouraged local governmental entities “to use us for free. We have a lot of smart people here.”

As for the plan drawn up for the city of Belvidere, he said its aim was to suggest “the safest way to return Menomonie to two-way traffic and provide additional parking.”

He and his staff will follow up with a written report for Brent Anderson, the city’s public works director.

Mayor Mike Chamberlain asked RMAP to get involved after the first plan drew opposition on a number of fronts.

The public safety building is shared by the city and county. City police and sheriff’s officials are housed there, along with the 9-1-1 emergency dispatching center. The county jail and historic courthouse are part of the complex.

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