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Fairfield City Council votes to keep one-way streets on Court and Broadway

FAIRFIELD — One-way streets have proved to be a problem for restaurant owner Tony Baker of Sweet ‘n Saucy in Fairfield. He was one of four citizens who attended the Fairfield City Council meeting Monday night to advocate for turning the downtown streets from one-way to two-way. However, after a council vote of 3-3, the motion failed and the one-way streets will remain.

Baker told the council 40 percent of his business is done outside of the city. He owns a food truck that he takes all over the state and parts of Illinois and Missouri. Baker told the council when he travels, he invites people back to Fairfield to visit his restaurant but people have trouble finding it.

Melanie Carlson, the city engineer, presented a proposal to the council. She said $150,000 from the local-option sales tax (LOST) fund needed to be dedicated to projects. One project city staff recommended was converting three blocks of Court Street and three blocks of Broadway. The cost of the conversion would be $75,000 and four other projects; Highway 1 engineering, Crow Creek Bridge study, a three-inch overlay on Spaulding and concrete patching; would take up the remaining funds.

Darien Sloat, CEO of the Fairfield Area Chamber of Commerce, said he completed a survey with downtown business and 37 of 38 were in support of the conversion. He said with more than 100 small businesses in town, it would be beneficial to convert the streets to allow for better traffic flow and help the store owners.

Terry Baker with the Wayfinding Commission said this project has been in the works for some time now. She said the goal of the commission is to help visitors. Baker said she felt by converting the streets, the city would be easier to navigate and more welcoming to newcomers. Denise Rush, the president of the Fairfield Cultural Alliance also spoke to council saying she was in favor of the proposed change.

However, only half the council members were on board. Member Tom Thompson said he spoke to 49 constituents and none of them were in favor of the conversion. He said he felt the money would be better utilized to fix and maintain roads. Council member Doug Flournoy agreed, saying there were other priorities, such as fixing potholes, the city needed to use the money for.

City council member Martha Rasmussen spoke up in favor, saying by converting the streets it would help bring more people to downtown and therefor grow the local sales tax, which was where the funds for the project were to come from. She said by growing the tax base, that would allocate for more money for road repair in the future.

“The businesses are the ones I feel we need to cater to,” she said.

Council members Paul Gandy and Michael Halley agreed with Gandy saying it was a necessary step four the council to make if the city was going to be inviting to new comers.

“It’s not taking away money from streets. It’s adding money to the city coffer so we can better repair streets,” he said.

Halley agreed, saying the vote was for an investment in the “economic engine” of the city. He felt by converting the streets to two-way, traveling in downtown would be easier and would help grow the LOST funds.

After a vote, the motion failed on a vote of 3-3 with council members Flournoy, Thompson and Katy Anderson all opposing. Anderson then explained her reasoning saying she felt converting Court Street to two-way traffic would be too confusing and suggested the city look to put the concept into a three to five year plan to be worked on in the future.

Instead, the council approved spending the allocated LOST funds on the four original projects, Highway 1 engineering, Crow Creek Bridge study, a three-inch overlay on Spaulding and concrete patching and a traffic study for the downtown conversion.

The next meeting of the Fairfield City Council will be Monday, Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. in City Hall.