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In Tactical Mode....
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Tuesday, July 15, 2008
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SPRINGFIELD - Jon A. Conlogue applauded last night because he said he felt he was getting his home back.

Roland E. Holstead, on the other hand, said he has lost confidence in the city.

Most of the 60 people who attended a meeting outdoors shared Conlogue's enthusiasm for a decision that could keep two streets in Forest Park permanently closed to through traffic - and crime and other disturbances.

"It has made a huge difference," said Conlogue, of Bellevue Avenue. "It's OK to be in your front yard now. That's good for the community. You couldn't say that a year ago."

The Board of Public Works voted 2-0 to recommend to the City Council that barriers temporarily placed in Marengo Park at Dickinson Street and Bellevue Avenue become fixtures.

Residents say peace has returned to their streets thanks to the barriers, which consist at each intersection of two large concrete planters connected by a padlocked chain.

The barriers, erected in late December, eliminated the streets' usage as parking spots and cut-throughs, dislodging prostitution, drug-dealing, speeding, littering and other problems that plagued the streets, residents said.

"What we are looking at here is a quality of life issue," said David J. Simpson of Marengo Park, who has spearheaded the effort.

Police and fire officials have said the barriers aren't ideal, but are acceptable as long as vehicles have access in emergencies with little delay. Others have warned against the city creating such "gated communities."

Board chairman John J. Fitzgerald and member Curtis W. Monroe preceded their vote with a public hearing at Marengo Park and Dickinson Street that lasted about a half hour.

Holstead's home is at Marengo Park and Dickinson Street. Among the problems since the barriers went up have been drivers heading down Marengo unaware they are unable to access Dickinson Street and who then try to do so anyway by driving across his lawn, he said.

He also complained that the presence of the barrier right outside his home and media reports about the streets' problems are devaluing his property.

"I have very little confidence in the city right now. I have no confidence that the DPW can do this" barrier in a positive way, Holstead said.

The City Council could consider the board's recommendation Monday.

Fitzgerald said a discussion would have to be held about what the barriers will look like, such as whether the planters and chain will remain or be replaced by some sort of landscaping.
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