DOT rejects request from family to reconsider moving memorial

City looks at new locations for memorial
DOT rejects request from family to reconsider moving memorial

Kevin Mengelt walked into a meeting with Wisconsin Department of Transportation officials hoping a compromise could be worked out to keep his wife’s memorial in the place where she died. He walked out of that meeting believing a compromise was never a possibility.

“I don’t feel that way. I know that was the case. There was no real negotiation. I think the only give was the state DOT would consider delaying the time it would take for the memorial to be moved,” Mengelt said.

Maureen Mengelt was killed last year while running near the intersection of Highway 19 and the exit ramp to Highway 151. She was struck and killed by a hit-and-run drunk driver.

The roadside memorial was placed near the spot where she died this past summer. It was paid for through donations from businesses and individuals in the community.

Prior to constructing the memorial, Jon Freund, the mayor of Sun Prairie, said the city let the Wisconsin DOT know about the project. The land where the memorial sits is owned by the DOT.

Freund was also at the meeting with the DOT. He said any hope the community had of keeping the memorial at the current location ended during that meeting.

“They would like to have this done sooner rather than later, before the snow flies this winter, and I think we can certainly accomplish that,” Freund said.

He said the city has looked at some locations on private property near where the memorial currently sits. Officials are also considering moving the memorial to Orfan Park, which is the site of an annual Memorial Day run in memory of Maureen.

“The idea of having it at a location where neighbors and family and friends can see it on a regular basis is appealing,” Mengelt said.

While moving the memorial now seems inevitable, Mengelt believes the current location is where it should remain.

“That location means a lot to our family, especially my children, and we would like to see something to memorialize my wife. I think it acts as a reminder to the community of what happened there. I think it does promote safer driving at the intersection. To see it moved, I could become bitter and angry about it but I want to believe that when we move it somewhere that it will have an impact on our community and be a reminder of my wife to many,” Mengelt said.

The deputy of the Southwest Region of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Dave Vieth, said in a statement, “We appreciate the opportunity to have met with Kevin Mengelt and officials from the city of Sun Prairie to help solve this situation. The city and state agreed to work with the family on the timing of the move. The state agreed to take responsibility for removing the remaining concrete and post after the city moves the plaque and performing finishing work to ensure no hazard remains in the right-of-way. It is our understanding the Sun Prairie City Council voted unanimously last night to allow the memorial to be relocated to Orfan Park.

“We are committed to working cooperatively with the city and the Mengelt family to move the memorial to a safe location to protect those who want to visit and prevent any future tragedies from occurring in the right-of-way.”