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Decatur City Council signals approval for Business 51 road, streetscape improvements

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Cars drive down North Main Street in Decatur. Members of the Decatur City Council offered their stamp of approval Monday night to the city's plans for improvements to Business 51 between Pershing Road and Eldorado Street that would limit the number of lanes and create some greenspace and a bike path along the major thoroughfares.

President Biden spoke about working together with both sides of the aisle when it comes to policy changes, specifically his infrastructure bill. He said he's willing to listen."Investments in jobs and infrastructure like the ones were talking about have often had bipartisan support," said President Biden. "Vice President Harris and I meet regularly in the Oval Office with Democrats and Republicans to discuss the American Jobs Plan. And I applaud a group of Republican Senators who just put forward their proposal. So, lets get to work. We welcome ideas. But, the rest of the world isn't waiting for us. Doing nothing is not an option."

DECATUR — Members of the Decatur City Council offered their stamp of approval Monday night to the city's plans for improvements to Business 51 between Pershing Road and Eldorado Street.

Instead of a "mill and fill" that would just fix the existing asphalt, city staff are hoping that a more ambitious plan will be developed. Interest has been expressed in a road diet that would reduce driving lanes, add green space, include a pedestrian and bike path and improve the overall streetscape. 

Council members generally agreed with that direction. 

"I think this project is an exciting opportunity to improve a main thoroughfare that goes right into our urban core and into our downtown," said Councilman David Horn. "I also am excited because it's consistent with our city's top strategic priority, which is neighborhood revitalization."

Councilman Bill Faber characterized it as "a very forward-looking design and plan."

"I've never forgotten that there's people who have steered away from driving … into our town up and down the road because it was such a poor condition," said Councilman Chuck Kuhle of the road's current condition. "It's embarrassing."

Business U.S. 51 improvements slated for this year

An IDOT traffic study confirmed that a reduction to three lanes in each direction would be feasible. 

The ball is now in IDOT's court, with the next steps including the completion of detail design and gathering input from the public. There is currently no timetable for either. 

In other news, the council approved an agreement with the Public Safety Training Foundation that will allow police officers to use a VirTra V-300 System training simulator, which puts officers in real-life training scenarios.

The agreement would allow the Decatur Police Department to have access to their own VirTra System to use for training any time of day or night, which allows even third shift to do on-shift training.

The council also voted 6-1 to approve an additional $84,752 in spending on engineering services from firm Clark Dietz, Inc. 

The original agreement, approved in September 2020, authorized up to $187,670 on services for the city. 

City Manager Scot Wrighton said the outside firm is helping pick up the slack as the city currently has two vacant engineer positions and two vacant engineering technician positions. 

"That's coming at the same time and we are challenged to move even faster with certain projects for water and sewer funded by the (American Rescue Plan) program," Wrighton said, explaining the need. 

The lone 'no' vote was cast by Horn, who stated his opposition to outsourcing city work to private firms. 

Wrighton said the city is working to fill the vacant positions, but has had difficulties recruiting applicants that either meets the qualifications or are willing to meet the city’s residency requirements.





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