Como roads long ignored

by Vadim Lavrusik

The drive down 14th Avenue Southeast, north of Hennepin, feels like off-roading with the amount of pot holes and torn-up gravel on the road.

A sliver of Como neighborhood roads have been neglected for reconstruction for more than 50 years, said Jeremiah Peterson, student representative for the Southeast Como Neighborhood Improvement Association.

“This is completely unacceptable,” Peterson said. “We pay for the road with our taxes, and I don’t see any benefit with it at all.”

Peterson, a homeowner on 14th Avenue Southeast, is going door-to-door petitioning that his road, along with 15th Avenue, Northeast Garfield Street and Winter Street north of Hennepin Avenue, be completely reconstructed this summer. In the worst condition out of the four, 14th Avenue Southeast isn’t scheduled for repair until 2011.

The roads have gotten so poor that it has become a safety hazard, Peterson said.

“I can’t even ride my bike down the street because it is so bad,” he said.

Road workers did minor patchwork last summer, but it didn’t seem to make a difference, Peterson said. They need to be completely reconstructed.

On a petition run Saturday, most of the students and residents were happy to sign and expressed their disappointment in the city’s negligence of the neighborhood.

Although the roads are in the Como neighborhood, they fall in Councilman Paul Ostrow’s 1st Ward. However, most of the Como neighborhood falls in Cam Gordon’s 2nd Ward area.

First Ward Councilman Paul Ostrow said he has brought up the road conditions in that neighborhood to the Capital Long-Range Improvement Committee several times and “they historically continue to rate this project very low.”

The committee makes recommendations on which projects should be funded and the council usually follows the recommendations, he said.

“The area is a bit of an orphan,” he said. “A strong support from the community would be good.”

Although he has brought up the road conditions during budget debates, he has not motioned for the project to be funded, but a petition might be helpful, he said.

But some of the students and residents, including Peterson, said Ostrow and the city are neglecting the area because it is occupied mostly by students in rental housing.

“He doesn’t care about the residents in this neighborhood,” Peterson said.

Medical student Kirsten Klevan said she thinks the area is neglected because there is no community voice to have the roads repaired.

“Students are cycling in and out, so it’s easy to look over a community of renters and students,” Klevan said.

Klevan, who lives on 15th Avenue Southeast, signed the petition.

Mike Holm, a landlord and resident on 15th Avenue Southeast, said the roads are completely “shot.”

Holm knows firsthand about bad roads: He works for a road construction company in Elk River.

“These roads give the neighborhood a run-down look,” he said.

The roads are not only torn up but have bad drainage, he said. His yard sometimes fills up with water.

He has called the city several times about the road problem, and they have told him they would take care of it but never did, he said.

Meanwhile, property taxes for the homeowners rise, he said.

“I am super pissed off about the property taxes because they hike them up and then neglect my neighborhood,” Holm said.

He said he has thought about selling his houses and moving elsewhere because of the high taxes.