A battle between business owners and city leaders is brewing in Algona. At least one merchant is suing the northern Iowa city over a plan to tear up and replace Algona’s Main Street starting April 1st. City administrator Cole O’Donnell says city officials approached the project with good counsel and plenty of public input. O’Donnell says engineers told the city patching the road would only last three-to-five years so the council chose to do a major renovation — ripping up the entire road and laying down a new one. He says city leaders knew the project would shake up downtown temporarily and they planned for that.To ease the disruption, 150-thousand dollars was put toward advertising so people will know downtown is still open. Merchants say their pleas were ignored, as was another survey from engineers who said resurfacing would last 20 years, not just five, and would cost 200-thousand dollars. Erv Wiltgen, owner of Wiltgen Jewelers and Gift World, filed suit last month saying the two-point-four-million dollar project goes far beyond what the city needs and way past what the people wanted. He says they don’t want complete street removal, they want sidewalks, curbs and gutter and few other things. He says they don’t want to change the lights. A survey conducted last fall showed business owners favored resurfacing the street, not replacing it. Tom Busher and his wife have managed a flower shop in Algona for 23 years and he says the construction can’t come at a worse time. He says they’ll start April 1st and he says April and May are critical times for his business.Betty Harmon and her husband run a medical supply store where customers often use walkers, canes and wheelchairs to get around. Harmon doesn’t want to further inconvenience them. On top of that, she says Algona’s sesquicentennial will be celebrated in July. The parade won’t be able to come down Main Street and sidewalks won’t be done in front of the businesses so customers would have to enter through back doors if they can even reach downtown. The city is expected to respond to the lawsuit next week.
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