MARISA AGHA, Pioneer Press
October 14, 2002

A year ago Roseville officials hailed these ornate stone pillars as a prominent new gateway welcoming visitors to the first-ring suburb.

Now, city leaders are considering whether to tear down the six pillars erected last year at the northeast corner of Lexington and Larpenteur avenues."These weren't even supposed to be built,'' Mayor John Kysylyczyn said at the last council meeting. "They're in violation of the law.''

While other city officials dispute the mayor's contention that the pillars were constructed illegally, most City Council members have said they support doing something to address concerns about limited visibility created by three of the monuments.

At issue are the monuments on the Larpenteur side, which Ramsey County Traffic Engineer Dan Soler says create "limited visibility'' for motorists turning right onto Larpenteur from southbound Lexington. While the city had not received any reports of accidents there in the year since the pillars went up, at a cost of $130,000, the monuments are in the "sighttriangle,'' Soler said.

"It's enough that we'd want to do something rather than do nothing,'' said Soler, who does not see problems for drivers going straight ahead or turning left at the corner.

The options include demolition, moving the pillars or limiting right turns from southbound Lexington. Soler said restricting right turns on red, though likely not welcome by all drivers, would alleviate the potential for an accident.

If the city decides to tear down the monuments, it could cost between $5,000 and $10,000 with additional costs for installing new sidewalks and electrical work, Soler said. Also, demolition means the city will have to pay back most of the federal money received for the project, said Bob Brown, state aid engineer for the Minnesota Department of Transportation. If all six came down, Roseville would owe the feds about $90,000.

Residents have mixed views about the 15-foot pillars, initially dubbed "Stonehenge'' by some for their likeness to the prehistoric monoliths in England.

Jon Van Demark, who lives at the nearby Roseville Seniors House, says he has long been concerned about traffic there as a pedestrian. Blind since birth, Van Demark has never seen the pillars, but he's concerned that they've made the area more hazardous.

"It's about the chaos of traffic there that denies blind people and senior citizens the right to live in the world,'' Van Demark said. "I don't want to become an organic bumper sticker.''

Pat Reardon, also a resident of the Roseville Seniors House, said she doesn't understand what the fuss is about.

"I think they're beautiful,'' Reardon said. "Why would they get in the way of crossing the road?''

Resident Dick Lambert, the only citizen who has complained at City Hall about the pillars, said he thinks a sign would alleviate the problem.

"The pillars create a very large blind spot,'' said Lambert, a frequent Kysylyczyn critic who said his concerns about safety there override his feelings about the mayor.

The city decided to spruce up the area and mark Roseville's border with St. Paul in anticipation of the county's reconstruction of Larpenteur. Largely federal dollars, along with some city money, funded the project. A task force and consultant helped guide the city on the effort.

Kysylyczyn contends that he is not "the fashion police'' and his concerns center on "safety and functionality,'' not aesthetics. He blames city staff, which he alleges did not follow city code, for creating traffic and pedestrian safety issues. City staff members said the council, along with the county and the consultant reviewed all the plans.

"The council approved it at every policy juncture,'' City Manager Neal Beets said. "I don't know how you can criticize city staff for following through on council decisions.''

Council members Craig Klausing and Dean Maschka favor the placement of a "no right turn on red" sign rather than the monuments' demolition.

"I cannot believe that the mayor is seriously advocating spending thousands and thousands of dollars to resolve a problem that can be solved with the cost of a sign,'' Klausing said.

Council Member Greg Schroeder agrees with Kysylyczyn, while Council Member Tom Kough, the council's swing vote, said he is undecided.

Soler said the county would not do anything until hearing more from the city.

The council has tabled the matter until staff members offer more detailed cost estimates on the pillars' removal as well as other associated costs. If the city decides it wants a "no turn on red" sign, the county will put it up, Soler said.

Marisa Agha, who covers north suburban Ramsey County, can be reached at magha@pioneer press.com or (651) 228-2109

2002 St. Paul Pioneer Press and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.