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July 03, 2012 | 11:38 AMWALWORTH — Angry residents have expressed frustrations at public forums, and criticism and claims of misguidance have been levied between village and school officials.
The unrest in Walworth revolves around a proposal from the state Department of Transportation's plans for Highway 14. A project that has been under the microscope by local officials for more than 3-1/2 years.
Although the state's project extends for miles — beginning at State Line Road and ending at Highway 11 — in Walworth the focus has been around how it will affect the village's square, downtown and elementary school.
The preferred plan for the village board — and now the DOT — would reroute Highway 14 to the west of the square. The proposal eliminates all the 90-degree turns and will improve the flow of semitrailer traffic.
However, it also will bring the highway to about 80 feet from the doorstep's of Walworth Elementary School. The distance between the school and the road has been a major concern for school officials.
Since January 2009, the Regional News has published dozens of stories about the proposed project, effects it may have on local businesses, opposition to the project and multiple alternative plans that have been presented.
One thing that has been consistent throughout the debate has been that both sides would prefer a bypass around the village. However, since day one, officials from the Department of Transportation have stated that a bypass isn't on the table.
Below is a time line that outlines how the project has evolved. The date (s) indicates when the news stories with this information appeared in the Regional News.
Jan. 15, 2009
Citing concerns with the volume of semitrailers circling the square, and a plan to reconstruct the road, DOT officials presented four options to the village board for Heyer Park and the highway.
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The early proposals included adding an island to the intersection of Highway 14 and Madison Street. It also would have widened several corners along the square. Even in the early onset of the project, a proposal would have required demolishing of the Antique Mall to widen a turn.
The final two proposals had the road run directly through Heyer Park.
During that meeting, then-Trustee David Rasmussen asked about the possibility of a bypass that would totally remove trucks from the village.
DOT Project Manager Allen Gilbertson told Rasmussen that a bypass wasn't an option the DOT was considering.
Feb. 12, 2009, story
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The village's engineer, Jamie Rybarczyk submitted a fifth proposal to the DOT. This plan would eventually become the preferred option by the state and village.
Rybarczyk plan requires that the Antique Mall be razed. Highway 14 would travel along the west end of Heyer Park through the school's parking lot.
Feb. 26, 2009, story
On Feb. 19, 2009, DOT officials held a public forum at Walworth Elementary School to discuss the Highway 14 proposals. At the forum, residents expressed a desire to preserve the village square.
At that forum, then-State Rep. Thomas Lothian said he was concerned about the village's proposal that would bring traffic closer to the school.
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Sept. 24, 2009, story
Walworth Elementary School District Administrator Pam Knorr wrote in the school's newsletter that a community task force was being created that had only one purpose.
"It's to block the alternative route coming through our parking lot if that indeed comes to fruition," Knorr said.
Nov. 5, 2009, story
More than 70 people attended a meeting at Walworth Elementary School where the village's proposal for Highway 14 was discussed. During this meeting, most of the people in attendance expressed concerns about the village's proposal.
However, trustees who attended the meeting stood by the village's plan.
Trustee Dennis Vanderbloemen said he "heard quite resoundingly that (the people at the meeting) are against this option."
However, that didn't change his position on the issue.
"I still think this is the most viable of all the options," Vanderbloemen said. "It is the best of what has been presented."
Dec. 17, 2009, story
Crispell-Snyder engineer Sue Barker said the options to cut Highway 14 through the square are gone. "I really don't think they will move forward," she said.
Feb. 4, and Feb. 28, 2010, stories
Individuals involved with the school's Highway 14 Task Force submitted two proposals. One option would have extended Highway 14 onto North Main Street by the village hall.
At Wisconsin Street, which is past the industrial park, truck traffic would be rerouted to the west and back onto Highway 14.
Another option would have rerouted truck traffic from Highway 14 onto Highway K, just south of the village of Darien.
Then, traffic would connect onto Highway 67 east of the village of Sharon and back onto Highway 14 south of the village of Walworth.
March 11, 2010, story
Members of the Highway 14 task force begin ciruclating petitions opposing the Highway 14 plan.
Oct. 14, 2010 story
Barker discussed the two options that were still being considered.
Neither option was the village's preferred plan.
One option required the state to purchase the Antique Mall. The other required the state to purchase Siemer's Cruise Inn, The Buzz Hair Design, Sweeney's Pub, King Dragon and Top Dog Grooming.
March 3, 2011, story
The DOT began leaning toward a plan that would have required the acquisition of the Antique Mall, and would have widened the turn.
However, the village's plan commission requested more information on what it would take to fund the plan designed by Rybarczyk.
Also that week, Building Inspector Ron Nyman unearthed a map with the state's 1965 bypass plan. While sorting through files, Nyman came across a 50-year-old map, which showed the state's plan to create a Highway 14 bypass.
March 31, 2011, story
The DOT tells village officials it would cost the village $400,000 to implement the plan designed by Rybarczyk. In April 2011, the board asked for more time to make a decision and discussed creating a TIF District to fund the project.
August 11, 2011, story
The village board approved a $5,000 contract with Ehlers, a company that provides financial planning to municipalities, to complete a feasibility study on a potential TIF District.
The board discussed using tax increment financing to pay for the Highway 14 plan. It also talked about creating a road that connects Onvoy, 610 Beloit St., directly to Highway 14, north of the village's square.
Oct. 6, 13 and 21, 2011, story
On Sept. 27, 2011, the village approved the TIF District. Board members state that they are expecting a $5 million increase in value by an incoming private commercial development. This development will come in the form of an expansion from Mecum Auctions.
In October the board officially endorsed its plan for Highway 14. Later that month a joint review board approved the village's plan for creating a TIF District.
March 8 and 22, 2012, issue.
On March 5, 2012, more than 100 people attended a meeting to express their concerns about the Highway 14 project. During that time, Johnson defended the village's plan.
However, other people in the audience began circulating petitions opposing it. The Walworth Elementary School Board approved a resolution in March that officially opposed the village's plan.
The vote was approved on a 4-0 vote, with board member Patrick Hubertz abstaining. Hubert's also is a village trustee.
June 21, 2012, issue.
A group of citizens presented 710 signatures to the village board from residents who oppose the Highway 14 plan. However, board members weren't impressed with the petition.
Rasmussen said the petitioners should have showed signees the alternative plans for Highway 14.