When the vote was taken on May 18th, five aldermen - Tracy Welch,
Steve Parrott, Kathy Horn, Jonie Tibbs and Rick Hoefle, voted ‘no’
and three aldermen - Michelle Bauer, Jeff Hoinacki, and Todd
Mourning, voted ‘yes.’ At that point, it appeared that nothing at
all would be done in the parking lot, as no suggestions were made to
visit an alternate plan.
This week, the topic was back on the agenda with the same renovation
and re-design plan as was voted in May.
The discussion was opened with remarks from City Administrator Clay
Johnson. Johnson reviewed previous actions on the project. He said
that the project had gone out for bid on three occasions. The first
two biddings had been rejected; the first due to high cost and only
one bidder submitted, the second being due to the bid coming in at
“considerably over budget.” The third bid, Johnson said, was
rejected for “the cost and the perceived impact on the surrounding
This past Tuesday, Johnson explained that at this point the issue is
that the staff is looking at an approved project that is currently
going nowhere. He said that since the last vote, there had been
questions council members posed regarding the project.
Johnson said two questions have come to light since the vote. First,
could the alleyway remain open and functional for traffic?
(Note: See drawing) The new design calls for the complete closure of
the west half of the alleyway. This area would then be renovated
into a “pocket park.” The alleyway currently runs downhill to the
exit onto Kickapoo. That elevation would be raised, and additional
parking spots would be added on Kickapoo as a result of the alley
Johnson answered the question saying yes the alleyway could remain
open, but it would be “at a cost.” There would need to be
significant improvements to the grade in the alley and “traffic
calming” devices for traffic trying to enter the alley from Kickapoo
Street (The alley is currently one-way exiting onto Kickapoo. The
plan calls for a reversal of the one-way to exit onto McLean. The
current directional flow is a safety concern for visitors to the
Lincoln Public Library, so if the alleyway did stay open, the
direction of traffic would still change.).
The second question posed by various aldermen was “Could the grass
area remain?” This is in reference to the green space at the corner
of Kickapoo and Pekin Street adjacent to the old Bartlemay Building.
Again, Johnson said yes it could, but “at a cost.” He said the cost
would include some of the standards for parking lots. He also noted
that it was a city property that the city department has to mow and
maintain at its expense.
Johnson said, as he sees it the council now has three options.
First, they can rescind the negative vote and accept the last bid
received. Johnson said the contractor who has bid on the project has
said he will hold the price quoted until the council has an
opportunity to re-visit its decision.
The second option, Johnson said, was to reject the project
altogether and designate the capital dollars in the budget for Pekin
Street be spent elsewhere.
The third option had two components. Johnson said the council could
choose to re-bid the project “as is” with the new design. He said
that at this point to re-bid it would require that some small
alteration is made to the design, but that could be done easily. The
second option would be to accept a completely new design for the lot
and send that out for bid.
Johnson said that to do the re-design of the lot would involve
additional dollars for the engineers as well as time lost on moving
forward with any plan at all.
Johnson said that the staff and the city administrator are asking
that the council give them direction as to how to proceed with a
project that from their viewpoint is now in limbo.
Jonie Tibbs was the first to speak, addressing a comment Mayor Marty
Neitzel had made earlier in the evening about the use of corrals for
trash receptacles. Neitzel had noted that other businesses such as
Hardee’s, Wendy’s, and McDonalds had corrals for their trash
containers. Tibbs said that at those locations the corrals are
required for food sanitation practices. She said that did not apply
in the case.
Neitzel disagreed saying there are two food establishments; Flossie
& Delzina’s and Sorrento’s Pizza, that have trash.
Tibbs said she had nothing against repaving the parking lot and
taking care of the sewer. She said the city should not “bite the
hand that feeds their face,” so they should respect the
sensibilities of those affected businesses. She said drainage and
ice was a concern for the business owners, and she did want to
address that. But she didn’t see that the drainage issue could not
be resolved without all this. She said she did certainly have a
problem with making those businesses walk outside, and across the
lot in all kinds of weather to discard their trash. She said corrals
could be put up just outside the doors of the businesses. Tibbs said
community did not care about where the trash was located in that
alley. She also commented that there was no need to take up a
portion of the alley for a “pretty place to sit.”
Neitzel said that they alleyway is a “front” in that it is visible
to traffic from Pekin Street. She added that one business has a
“front window” for that alley. It is also a front door for the
Library Annex and the Safe Haven Hospice and a second front for the
Tibbs said she had talked to the businesses, and they do not want
this change and don’t see the need for the alteration of the alley.
Neitzel asked if Tibbs had talked to Heartland and the library.
Tibbs said no she did not, because there has never been a problem
for them the way it is.
Tibbs said she didn’t understand the “why” of the city wishing to do
this. Neitzel said the big issue is drainage, and the plan will fix
that. Tibbs said that could have been done a long time ago. She also
said the city could take better care when cleaning the alley. She
said she had heard from the business owners that the alleyway is the
last thing ever to be cleaned in the city.
Rick Hoefle said his big issue, first of all, is the cost of the
project. He said that the bids have been too high, far exceeding the
engineers estimated costs. He noted that to reduce the cost, the
city had reviewed the sewer component of the plan, with Waste
Treatment manager Tim Ferguson saying the sewer issues were not as
bad as earlier thought. The city had then re-written the bid packets
to exclude the sewer work. Even so, the job is coming in at
$470,000. He said, “That’s one issue I’ve got, costs keep going up.”
Hoefle said his second issue with the project was the loss of the
west end of the alley. He said he had talked to all the businesses
that will be impacted, and none of them want to lose their alley. He
also said the owners are upset about the use of the trash corral. He
said the question had been posed to him, “if they have to have a
corral, why doesn’t every other block on the square have the same?”
Neitzel repeated that it is because this alley can be seen from
Pekin Street, making it something the public sees all the time.
Hoefle countered that the streetscape plan called for fencing around
the parking lots, he wondered if the city was going to do that as
well. Neitzel said the revitalization plan was a suggestion, not a
requirement. Hoefle went on to say perhaps a fence could be put up
along that area to block the view of the alley from Pekin Street. He
added that it looked to him like the current plan for parking could
still be used without taking away the alley.
He then moved on to the odor issues in the businesses. He said that
was something he felt absolutely had to be fixed.
Michelle Bauer spoke up saying that there seemed to be an opinion
that the city was not showing respect for the downtown businesses.
She said she disagreed. She noted that she has a business downtown
herself, as a choice, because it is where she wants to be.
She went on to speak on the corral. She said it was an inconvenience
perhaps for some of the businesses, but it should not be a “deal
breaker when you talk about the improvements in accessibility and
traffic to your business.”
She went on to say that she noted Hoefle’s comment on the rising
cost of the project. She said that it is nearly certain that the
price will go up over time, that it will not ever get cheaper.
Bauer went on to say that she believed there was a misperception in
the community that the $470,000 was primarily for aesthetics when
the majority of the cost is going to be invested in the regrading of
the parking lot to accomplish the proper drainage. She noted, “It is
not $400,000 of fluff.”
She spoke regarding the west end of the alley. She said that
currently exiting the alley onto Kickapoo Street is difficult as it
is now. She noted that she was sure the large trucks and trailers
could not be exiting that way now, and if they are, they are doing
so by crossing lanes of traffic.
She said that yes the alleyway is visible from Pekin Street and
makes an impression on visitors coming into the downtown area from
the north. She noted that the city has bid and re-bid this project,
which ultimately means they do want to do something with this. She
said she didn’t think the city should invest more time and money in
a new design when they have one that works.
Finally regarding the vacant lot on the corner, she said that in her
lifetime in Lincoln, she doesn’t remember anyone ever making use of
that corner. She said, "If nobody has gotten excited about it yet
we’re holding our breath for a project in that area that is not
there, we’re holding on to something I don’t think is necessary."
[to top of second column]
Parrott began by saying he does drive through that parking lot with
great caution. He said something needs to be done because the
parking lot and alley are not in great shape. He commented that
regarding the aesthetic, when driving Peking Street, the unsightly
part of the area is the back of the buildings and the electric wires
and transformers that are visible. He said the city could move
forward and dress up the parking lot and alley, but the back of
those buildings were still going to be unsightly.
Parrott said he
didn’t vote for it the last time because it seemed to be all about
aesthetics. He added that was not a good reason to vote for it, but
a good reason to vote for it would be because the alley needs to be
fixed and the parking lot needs to be fixed.
Neitzel spoke briefly about the cost of the project and reminded the
council that the State had awarded $100,000 from its capital
projects plan to this library.
Jeff Hoinacki and Tim Ferguson
Jeff Hoinacki asked Waste Treatment Manager Tim Ferguson to talk
about the storm drains that will go into the project. Ferguson said
he didn’t have it in front of him, but he believes there will be
four to five storm drains throughout the parking lot area, and that
there will be concrete storm sewers placed underground, the two
components combined will address the poor drainage in the area.
Bauer moved on saying she did not disagree (with Parrott) that the
backs of the buildings are not pretty, but there is nothing the city
can do about that.
She said that the city could be mindful that if the accessibility to
the back entrance of a business becomes more widely used, those
businesses may do something to dress up the backs of their
Neitzel added that the city does have façade grants available that
could help and encourage business owners to do just that.
Tibbs asked if the cost of the project included the sewer. Ferguson
said that the $470,000 does include the storm drainage, but it does
not include repairs to the sanitary sewer. Those are being bid
separately in the sewer slip lining projects.
Mourning said after the council voted no the first time around, some
of the business owners were surprised that the subject was now
dropped. He said they had expressed to him that they still wanted
something done, especially in their alley.
Mourning asked the representative present from Farnsworth Group to
address the grading and drainage. That representative said that the
storm sewers would have to be put in, and then the entire parking
lot would have to be graded to make the water flow. He said that
putting the storm sewer into the ground without doing the grading
would be almost worthless.
Mourning went on to comment on the ADA compliant area that is drawn
into the plan. He said that would be an asset to shoppers and
business owners. He noted that yes there are ADA ramps on Broadway,
but access to those ramps from a vehicle is not convenient for
customers unless they are parked right next to the ramps. Tibbs said
that the ADA in the back was not fair to the rest of the business
owners on that block because only one has a back door entry.
Tibbs went on to say that because of this, what will happen is that
customers will pass through the Mary Todd Hallmark store to go out
onto Broadway and shop in other stores.
Horn said she had been listening to everyone’s comments about
aesthetics, but she felt that the most important issue was the
safety of the citizens. She said that this area is not safe for
anyone, and safety has to be a concern for all of them.
Bill Vinyard and Richard Sumrall
Bill Vinyard and Richard Sumrall were in the gallery representing
the Lincoln Public Library. Vinyard spoke for the library saying
that right now, they feel they are being ignored on this issue. He
noted that in all this discussion, no one from the city has talked
to Sumrall or him about how the library feels about the project. He
told the council that the library was a big asset in Lincoln, the
building has great value, and the library has invested a lot of
money in keeping the library in excellent condition.
Vinyard said that the library does own a portion of that lot, and
has committed a total of $35,000 to this project because they do
want to see it done. He said the alleyway as it is doesn't function
well for the library. He noted that the Annex building had
experienced flooding due to the issues with the alley.
He criticized the concern that the city has for making a business
owner “walk 20 steps to a dumpster.”
He reminded the council that the library has real estate value in
the community, but it is also a draw. He noted that at the Thursday
morning program featuring the Richardt Petting Zoo, 255 children and
parents attended, and were exposed to a parking lot surface that is
unsafe for simply walking and standing.
After a comment from Bauer that the city should rescind the previous
vote and go again on the parking lot vote, Rick Hoefle commented,
“Are you going to go tell the businesses on the other end that you
are going to put them out of business because they can’t get their
Welch commented that he had been passionate about the green space,
but that he could compromise on saving the green space.
He said where he was getting hung up was with the business owners.
He noted that in the beginning, the business owners liked the plan,
but now business owners like Greg Tarter no longer want this. He
said he didn’t know why and wanted to know why that had happened. He
said he suspected that the majority of the business owners are not
as well informed as they need to be about what the plan involves,
that it is not just for aesthetics.
He said he also felt that some people are looking at the downtown
revitalization plan as the “holy grail” that must be followed when
it is really just a suggested plan.
Welch also wondered if the city goes forward with this plan, will
there be issues if and when the city goes to the alley behind
Guzzardo’s. He said there are businesses such as Guzzardo’s and the
Spirited Republic that take back door deliveries. There too, he
noted, are exposed dumpsters. Furthermore, that alleyway is also
visible from a street. He said he wanted to make sure that when it
is all said and done, the city acts fairly with everyone.
Welch added that in the end, yes, it is important to make the
downtown “as pleasant and presentable as possible because we are
encouraging people to come downtown and shop, and make downtown a
destination. I think my no vote last time was simply because I felt
there was no compromise, which the decision had been made prior to
some of us even being on the council. We were being asked to rubber
stamp a project that has already gone through a process with no
voice or input, and I think that is a dangerous precedent to set.
That being said, I can't tell you exactly how I feel about this. I’m
still torn on this because we are trying to please many people.”
Regarding freight deliveries, a comment was made that with the new
construction, semi’s (large tractor and trailer units) will not be
able to make deliveries. Vinyard said they never were (able to do
that). He said there has never been a full-sized semi in the alley.
He said the new configuration would allow the box truck style
vehicles to come in and back into a designated space without
blocking traffic. Currently, he said because of the one-way
direction of the traffic, when trucks come in and block the alley
way, drivers in the parking lot wishing to leave must wait for as
long it takes for that truck to move.
Going back to Horn's statement on safety, Tibbs said the city has
big issues with safety on the sidewalks. She felt fixing the
sidewalks was more important than some of the issues they intended
to address in this new parking lot design. She wanted money spent
there instead of on some of the items in this plan that no one
At the end of the discussion, the council decided to entertain two
motions at the July 18th voting session.
The first motion will be to rescind the previous vote from May. The
second motion then will be to accept the plan as is.
In placing this on a voting agenda, Neitzel said she was going to
hold the items to the July 18th meeting because she knows some
aldermen will be absent on July 5th, and she wants the full council
to have the opportunity to vote on this important issue.