Mengelt memorial must move; DOT policy questioned - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Mengelt memorial must move; DOT policy questioned

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 SUN PRAIRIE (WKOW) -- State officials say a nearly $3,000 memorial to crash victim Maureen Mengelt must be moved, as a lawmaker and the victim's loved ones question the department of transportation policy behind the directive.

Mengelt was killed in April 2013, when drunken driver and former Lutheran bishop Bruce Burnside crashed his SUV into her, as she jogged near an off-ramp to Highway-51 in Sun Prairie. Earlier this year, a memorial plaque to Mengelt was placed in concrete just off the path the woman jogged on -  and still in the public right-of-way - with the help of private fundraising.

Mengelt's widower, Kevin Mengelt tells 27 News he discovered last week state officials planned to remove the memorial. State rules on roadside memorials state they can be removed for safety, maintenance, and appearance reasons, or if a complaint is lodged.

"I was told it was just an anonymous complaint," Mengelt says.

DOT spokesperson Michael Bie says memorials in the public right-of-way are illegal, but officials recognize their value to people as they grieve a loss. Bie offered no comment on the complaint involving the Mengelt plaque.

"Anybody can complain," Rep. Gary Hebl (D-Sun Prairie) tells 27 News. "DOT rules say they got to take it down."

"It's absurd," Hebl says.

Hebl says he will push for modification of the rules to require discretion in assessing complaints over roadside memorials.

A roadside memorial to 2012 Sun Prairie crash victim Kim Sylvia was removed over a complaint last week, and family members have protested.

Sun Prairie Mayor John Freund tells 27 News he's unaware who lodged the complaints with state officials.

But Freund tells 27 News a Bristol man lodged complaints with the city of Sun Prairie in June, maintaining the two memorials had no place in the public right-of-way.  Freund says the man argued pedestrians play a role in conflicts on roadways with motor vehicles.

Freund and Hebl say they are working to find an alternate, permanent place for the Mengelt memorial, if it is required to be moved.

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