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Highway 965 staying alive

NORTH LIBERTY– Highway 965 isn’t going anywhere, at least not for now.
Four ideas for the highway’s renaming set forth by a city council decision in April are in the running, but city officials are having a hard time deciding what’s right for North Liberty.
“I went into this (thinking) there’s gonna be a check box and we’ll all agree, but it was tough,” said council member Jim Sayre at the July 12 council meeting.
Sayre is part of a nine-person renaming committee responsible for coming up with an honorary designation for the city’s main road. Members were appointed to the committee by Mayor Amy Nielsen and asked to consider community pride, timelessness, native relationship and ease of use in making a decision. The committee consists of four community members and four city staff in addition to Sayre.
Communications Director Nick Bergus said of the original 76 suggestions received through a public form, 30 were unique. At the committee’s first meeting, that list was reduced to 13 and included CRANDIC, Dan Gable, Heartland, and Squash Bend, among others.
Sayre said a committee discussion in May eventually came down to what the new name says about why residents enjoy living in North Liberty.
“I think most folks agreed that we didn’t like the sort of cop-out stuff (like) Corridor Way,” he said. “It seemed like we weren’t thinking it through.”
Corridor, however, is on the list of four possible themes for the new name, along with opportunity, liberty, and Ranshaw– after the historical Samuel Ranshaw house on the corner of Penn Street and Community Drive.
The committee took no official vote, Bergus said, in hopes that the council could give more direction. Annie Pollock and Chris Hoffman were the only council members to give an opinion.
“I think Liberty would be confused with North Liberty Road,” Pollock said. “I think they’re too close together that it could be confusing from a direction standpoint.”
Although City Planner Dean Wheatley noted that North Liberty Road will likely be changed to Penn Street in the near future, in the end the room seemed to err on the side of history.
“With the exception of the house, we don’t really have a recognition for the Ranshaw family,” said council member Chris Hoffman. He noted that while the name doesn’t necessarily generate “2016 community pride” or say anything about North Liberty to an outsider, it does link the city to its past.
“If you want to be 2016-focused and forward thinking, I don’t know why we’re not renaming it after the first elected female mayor,” Mayor Nielsen said jokingly. “I mean A-M-Y, that’s easy.”
Assistant City Administrator Tracey Mulcahey seemed to agree with Hoffman, noting that Samuel Ranshaw was “cutting edge technology” in his day.
“When he built his house, it had all of the bells and whistles technology that you could have,” said Mulcahey. “Which is kind of like us as a community. We like to be cutting edge. We like to have state-of-the-art technology, be the first and forward thinkers.
“That’s kind of a neat parallel there,” she added. “Not just history but who we are currently as well.”
Pollock re-expressed her concern about the road keeping the Hwy. 965 association.
Bergus said the switch, albeit unofficial, would happen “organically.”
“Don’t worry,” he added. “We won’t get rid of your 965.”
The new name will be an honorary designation only, with Highway 965 still present on signage. No postal addresses will need to be changed. The estimated cost of renaming the roadway is $3,500 to purchase new signs.
The council made no decision, and Bergus said the committee would reconvene to make more progress.