Morrison council: No action taken on stoplight removal

Council continues discussion on whether to remove traffic light at Genesee and U.S. 30, based on its age, and need for infrastructure repair there

A vehicle crosses the intersection of North Genesee Street and U.S. 30 in Morrison on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2023. The Morrison City Council is discussing whether to remove traffic lights at the intersection, which would require changes to traffic flow on Genesee Street.

MORRISON – Confused by what their constituents want them to do, Morrison City Council members Monday night took no action on whether to remove stoplights and change traffic flow on Genesee Street at U.S. 30.

The council over the past several meetings has discussed whether to remove the traffic light at Genesee and U.S. 30, based on its age, and the need for infrastructure repair there.

Knowing the stoplight must be maintained by the city and motorists’ dissatisfaction with the lights’ timing, officials have been discussing options that include replacing the stoplights or removing them altogether. If they are removed, city officials said, the Illinois Department of Transportation will require traffic flow changes because of poor line of site for vehicles turning from Genesee onto U.S. 30. The 200 block of Genesee would become a southbound one-way street from U.S. 30 to Main Street while the 300 block of Genesee would become a northbound one-way street from Route 30 to Knox Street. That would prevent motorists from turning east or west onto U.S. 30 or crossing the intersection.

Complicating the discussion have been talks about closing the 200 block of Genesee Street to traffic and possibly developing that stretch into a place for downtown events or community gathering space.

As of Monday night, petitions bearing 243 signatures of residents and visitors against changes at the intersection had been turned in at Morrison City Hall and to city officials. During discussion Monday night, some council members said they wondered if petitioners were signing to prevent the stoplight removal or the Genesee Street closure, which would not be considered in the initial resolution the council would have to approve to remove the lights.

A proposed draft resolution, which if approved would have proceeded with removing the lights and changing the traffic flow into one-ways, was presented to the council Monday night. It did not include whether to close the 200 block of North Genesee Street. Council member Harvey Zuidema, however, said he was uncomfortable because the resolution was listed on the agenda only as a possible action item.

“I’m going to bring up this resolution is not on the agenda, so it therefore cannot be voted on tonight,” Zuidema said.

“Not necessarily true,” City Administrator Brian Melton replied. “The topic of the discussion is on the agenda; you don’t necessarily have to be that explicit in the agenda item on what you are doing.”

“I’ve never seen this done before that way,” Zuidema said.

Council member Josh West said the vote appeared to be rushed as council members continued to go back and forth on how they wanted to alter that ordinance. He said the matter appears to be cut and dried.

“It does seem a little rushed to vote on the resolution,” he said, as council member Sidonna Mahaffey agreed.

“This is not being force-fed to you,” Melton said. “It’s just prepared. I prepared it. I was just trying to be prepared, that’s all. Whether you are ready to make that decision is totally up to you.”

Mahaffey said the issue is a hot topic around town and she wants to see a community forum scheduled.

“If it’s such a hot topic, where are the people?” Melton asked as he pointed to the audience of six people.

Council member Todd Schlegel said he believes people are signing the petition thinking that it would prevent the closure of the road.

West then asked Brian Bartoz, who has been turning in the petitions and was in the audience Monday night, to read the top of the petition so the council knew what people had signed.

But before Bartoz could read it, some council members protested, saying Bartoz wasn’t allowed to speak because the discussion was not taking place during the public comment portion of the agenda.

West said the number of signatures on the petition indicate people are against taking out the streetlight. Mahaffey also questioned the benefit of removing the light and whether the stoplight, which she said seems to be working OK, should be removed.

“It is not functioning as it should. It impedes traffic rather than enhances traffic,” Mayor Scott Vandermyde said.

There also was debate as to whether changing the traffic flow was akin to closing the road. Vandermyde said traffic would still be allowed, but would be directed a different way. West said the stretches of one-way road would in effect limit the roads and close them to traffic.

“Traffic exists on Genesee Street under this proposal,” Vandermyde said emphatically.

As council members started jumping into the discussion, Vandermyde banged the gavel and asked the council if anyone was going to make a motion to approve the resolution to remove the stoplights. He said if no motion was made, discussion would be stopped.

No one made the motion.

“Hearing none, we will move on,” Vandermyde said.

In other business, the council:

  • Set Halloween trick-or-treating from 4-7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 31
  • Approved a proclamation declaring October to be Domestic Violence Awareness Month
  • Approved purchasing a tractor mower replacement pending an employee test drive. The Cub Cadet will be bought from Birkey’s in Prophetstown at a cost of $16,610
  • Referred a discussion about annexing two properties at 14601 Norrish Road to the city’s Planning & Zoning Board for more discussion
  • Discussed a mowing agreement between the city and Odell Public Library
  • Learned that the 2020 U.S. Census indicates boundaries for the city’s four voting wards will have to be moved to equalize the number of voters in each one
Charlene Bielema

Charlene Bielema

Charlene Bielema is the editor of Sauk Valley Media.