Residents still split on C Street


by April Sigmund

Tensions continue to mount between Indianola residents and Simpson College officials about the future of C Street.

Simpson College President John Byrd laid out the proposal at last week’s city council meeting, however the forum was created to allow residents to speak and ask Byrd or Indianola Mayor Ken Bresnan questions.

The issue of the street closure has caused tension between the college and residents ever since its beginning stages, due concerns about safety, accessibility and parking.

Resident Kathy Stanfield addressed the concern of handicap accessibility to the core of campus if the street was removed.

“I’m not sure how a drop off point a block away is going to help, especially a wheelchair bound person,” Stanfield said, referring to the two proposed cul-de-sacs on both ends of campus that would replace the street.

Stanfield also voiced a concern for people dropping off their handicapped passengers, then having to leave them to park.

Safety was further questioned when resident Sally Johnson asked what plans had been made if in the event of a catastrophic situation, if a city evacuation was necessary. C Street is a main arterial road many use.

Resident Kelly Walter also questioned emergency access to homes on the north end of Buxton Park, which are usually accessed by C Street.

Byrd responded by saying plans to accommodate emergency vehicles in the best way possible were being made, but that the college would be open to any solution. Bresnan agreed this is an important issue that must be discussed with the fire and police departments.

Parking was another major issue brought up by residents.

Many residents who enjoy coming to Buxton Park were concerned with removed parking. Byrd pointed out that extended parking would be added and also noted that the college would be happy to designate spots for Buxton Park only.

Resident Sally Johnson also suggested re-implementing a no parking after 2 a.m. rule on designated parking spots. Byrd and Bresnan agreed that the city take action on devising a parking plan.

Byrd estimated that around 40-50 cars park the length of C Street, most of which are owned by students, making residents concerned about where these students would park.

“It’s not a matter of having enough parking, it’s a matter of getting students to park where they have the parking,” Byrd said.

Residents were further concerned with parking availability for big events such as graduations or sporting events. Byrd argued that the busiest times of the day were during class hours, and that evenings produced more spots as students are driving to various activities. He also argued that parking is already scarce for event goers, as much of the road is already taken by students.

“This is not at all uncommon,” Byrd said. “College campuses all over the country try to move their parking and traffic out of the core of their campus as they grow and develop.”

Other residents remained neutral about the closing, but raised concerns about issues that need to be resolved before the project begins.

Resident Brad Ross addressed the need to put Irving Elementary plans to improve safety into action before closing the street.

Resident Jodi Anderson, a mother of two children who attend Irving Elementary, strongly agreed.

“I want the safety of the Irving kids taken care of before the closing of C Street if that is what’s going to happen,” Anderson said.

According to resident Joe Gezel, Irving renovation plans have long been in the works, a concern in its own.

“Twelve years ago I was on the building committee for the middle school,” Gezel said. “At that time, they were talking about the same thing that they’re wanting to do now at Irving. Now, is this going to be a fast track deal or is it going to be five, 10 years down the road?”

Ross also identified the need to figure out a price for the street.

“It’s an important item that needs to be discussed and agreed upon soon because it may be more than Simpson is willing to pay or it may be less than what the city is willing to accept,” Ross said.

Walter then questioned the council by reading an excerpt from the city’s own comprehensive plan, which the council helped developed. It stated, “do not close C Street. Need a north-south street in the area and have concerns about the narrowness of two way street driving.”

Walter also questioned whether research had been done to see how the closing would affect future growth of the city in its expansion northward, especially in regards to traffic flow. Bresnan said the council would look into traffic counts if the proposal is accepted.

Resident Susan Glit voiced just how sensitive many residents are to the issue, as many have resided in Indianola for much of their lives and depend on C Street.

“I want you to address how this whole thing is affecting the community-college relationship,” Gilt said. “If you have any ideas on how you’re going to fix that after it’s done.”

Byrd responded by saying the college has worked hard to listen to and adapt the plan to concerns of the community.

“I hope that we can move forward and remain neighborly, regardless of the outcome,” Byrd said.