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Goodbye Antique Mall?

DOT leans to plan requiring acquisition of building, village eyes alternative

March 02, 2011 | 08:34 AM
Walworth — Wisconsin Department of Transportation officials are leaning toward a proposal for the Highway 14 project that would require the acquisition of two village businesses.

However, plan commissioners may have put a wrench in those plans — which the DOT would fund — during the February meeting by asking for more information on another proposal.

On Feb. 21 the commissioners requested cost figures for a proposal, which requires the acquisition of a residence and brings the road closer to Walworth Elementary School.

During the past few years, several plans have surfaced to improve the traffic flow on Highway 14 through the village. The DOT is scheduled to reconstruct Highway 14 from the state line to Highway 11.

After the meeting, Project Manager Allen Anderson said the DOT hoped to finalize plans for the village's portion of the Highway 14 project by March.

However, if the village is interested in sharing costs for a more expensive project, that decision may be delayed.

Anderson said for the DOT to consider the project that brings the road closer to the school, the village would need to help fund it. However, he couldn't tell village officials specific costs.

Village President Todd Watters said he doesn't want specific costs, just ballpark figures.

"I don't want definitive details, I just want thumbnails," Watters said.

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In March, DOT officials are expected to bring general figures to the Plan Commission.

Sue Barker, the engineer for the project, said either proposal would improve the current conditions of the highway.

However, Barker said they safety concerns arise from bringing the road closer to the school.

Barker and Anderson didn't have a cost estimate for the portion of the project within the village of Walworth. However, they said the overall cost of the project is about $10 million.

Where is the project?

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During the past few years, several plans have been proposed, but DOT officials said Feb. 21 they are leaning toward a plan that would have the state acquire the Antique Mall and King Dragon.

After buying those businesses, the state would widen the corners, allowing the trucks to make smoother turns. With that plan, the DOT also would acquire the northeast corner of Heyer Park and widen the turn.

After the businesses are purchased, the DOT would sell what is left of the lots. The state also would provide business owners with relocation assistance.

John Hunt, an owner of the Antique Mall, said he is concerned about safety around the square and that he is open to relocating his business.

"I gladly sacrifices our beautiful building for the safety of our kids at the school," Hunt said.

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He said trucks regularly knock down the stop light at the intersection of Highways 14 and 67, which have crashed into his store window.

"For the last 13 years I've been terribly worried about the safety of kids coming and going from the school," Hunt said. "If that ever happened when the kids are there, it would be a terrible situation."

He also said there are safety concerns because cars cut through the parking lot behind his building at high-speeds.

"I'm amazed 13 years that I've been there that no one has been killed in that parking lot," Hunt said.

After the meeting, Barker said the owners of King Dragon have also expressed a willingness to relocate their business.

Commission's proposal

The village's Plan Commission designed a proposal that would require the acquisition of the Antique Mall and would bring traffic closer to the school. It would also eliminate 90 degree turns around Highway 14.

This is the proposal the village would have to share costs with the state to implement.

However, that proposal has been met with fierce opposition by Walworth Elementary School officials and parents.

"Many residents and school officials object to it because of the perceived safety concerns," Trustee David Rasmussen said Monday night.

Rasmussen said having students cross the current intersections presents a danger. He also questions whether the school is more concerned about losing its parking lot than it is about safety issues.

"I would take the school's concerns a little more sincerely if they had raised safety issues prior to this proposal," he said. "They haven't really cared that much about the safety of the children with the Highway 14 and 67 intersection."


Tags: Geneva Lake West, Highway 14

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Walworth County