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Willmar City Council committee supports seat belt legislation

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council's Public Works/Safety Committee is endorsing state legislation that would require everyone in a motor vehicle to wear a seat belt.

Under the current 20-year-old law, law enforcement officers can ticket motorists for failing to wear a seat belt, but only if the car is pulled over for another offense.

The proposed bill would let officers pull over motorists simply because motorists are not wearing a seat belt. Anyone without a seat belt would face a $25 fine.

The council was asked last week by local resident David Herzer to support the legislation, saying seat belt use would reduce traffic deaths.

The council referred the request to the committee for discussion Tuesday.

According to the Minnesota Seat Belt Coalition, unbelted traffic deaths and injuries resonate beyond victims and their families.

The coalition said Minnesotans pay major cost factors including emergency response, medical assistance, unemployment compensation and increased health care insurance premiums.

The coalition said the 149 unbelted deaths and 262 unbelted injuries in central Minnesota including Kandiyohi County had a $188.3 million economic impact from 2005 to 2007.

Committee chairman Doug Reese said he did not have a problem with the legislation. Committee member Bruce DeBlieck said the statistics speak for themselves. A motion offered by DeBlieck to support the legislation was seconded by Reese.

Committee Rick Fagerlie said he thought the law is a good idea. "I know you're not supposed to smoke, either,'' he said.

Reese and DeBlieck voted in favor. No audible vote was heard from Fagerlie and committee Ron Christianson, and Reese declared the motion carried.

In other business, the committee approved the city's $203,000 share of a $3.08 million improvement project by Kandiyohi County on County Road 24 and County Road 41.

The city's share includes the cost of constructing storm sewer, curb, gutter and utilities. A portion of the cost will be assessed to property owners, according to Mel Odens, city public works director.

The reconstruction of County Road 41 (also known as First Street Northeast) will begin at a point just south of 15th Avenue Northwest (also known as the College Road) north to King Lake (County Road 25).

The County Road 24 project will begin at County Road 41 and proceed east to the entrance of the golf course.

Odens said the City Council will hold a public hearing Monday night on the project. A landowner adjacent to County Road 41, Steve Okins, said he did not receive notice of the public hearing.

City Administrator Michael Schmit said hearing notices will be sent to owners of affected property within the city limits.

In related business, the committee voted to apply for a $157,215 federal grant to pay most of the $190,313 estimated cost of construction of a walk path tied to the County Road 24/41 project. The city would cover the remaining $33,098 cost of the 1.3-mile path. The path would be graded in 2009 and paved in 2010.

In other business, the committee:

? Received the February progress report from Rhonda Rae, program manager for Donohue and Associates, on construction program of the $86 million wastewater treatment project. Rae said the project is on time and under budget.

? Voted to advertise for bids for material to build a recreation path on MinnWest Technology Campus property along Business 71 North. The date for approving a contract will hinge on the findings of a state-mandated archaeological survey being conducted along the path corridor, according to Odens.