2011-05-21 / News

Agreement reached on first steps to address intersection

By Charles Prince

MILLERSPORT - A study that could lead to the removal of the village’s only traffic light drew more than a dozen residents to the May 10 village council meeting.

Last month council members discussed how to improve pedestrian safety at the village’s busiest intersection - Lancaster and Refugee streets. The traffic light there is thought by some to be contributing to the problem. Northbound traffic continuing on Ohio 204 must turn left onto Refugee Street, but there isn’t room for a left-hand turn lane. Consequently, northbound traffic can backup, prompting traffic staying on Lancaster Street to pass the waiting left-hand turn traffic on the right by cutting across the entrance to Watson’s Valero station.

That puts vehicles in the unmarked sidewalk across the entranceway. There have been several close calls for pedestrians crossing the entranceway when a northbound vehicle swings into the same area to pass a vehicle waiting to turn left.

One possible solution raised last month would replace the light with a four-way stop. Proponents believe that set-up would reduce the backup of vehicles waiting to turn left and stop vehicles from passing on the right using the Valero entranceway. It is a violation to leave the roadway to pass another vehicle on the right.

The first step to remove the light is to request an Ohio Department of Transportation traffic study. Since a state highway is involved, ODOT must approve any changes.

Jim Hempleman represented Jeff Watson who was attending an out-of-town graduation. He presented a petition with 322 signatures protesting the possible removal of the traffic light.

“I’ve never seen problems there at all,” Hempleman said. “There’s been no problems with the traffic light.” He and Watson are concerned about anything making it more difficult for motorists to enter the station.

“The real issue is passing on the right,” council President Dave Levacy said. “That’s our concern.”

Council member Donna Thogmartin, who regularly walks through the intersection, has been raising safety concerns for months. She taped traffic at the intersection for 15 minutes at noon on May 6 and played it for council. In that short period, several vehicles did pass stopped vehicles on the right and one vehicle tried to create a right-hand turn lane off Refugee Street onto Lancaster Street.

“Our intent is for the safety of the village,” she explained. “As council it is our job to look at it.”

Jerry Murphy told her that there isn’t a crosswalk across the entrance to Watson’s so pedestrians shouldn’t be there. Several residents said some residents believe the east-side sidewalk along Lancaster Street does extend across the entrance to Watson’s, adding there is nothing there to indicate otherwise.

Janet Bush recounted two close calls with vehicles entering Watson’s in just the past week. “We need to be sensitive to a business and safety,” she said.

“All we asked for is a traffic study,” Levacy said. “Maybe they will come up with some other suggestions.”

Council member Gary Matheny said he saw 20-some passes on the right in about 30 minutes on a recent late Friday afternoon.

Steve Bush suggested first marking the crosswalk in front of the Valero station before even starting the traffic study.

“ Mark it in a conspicuous manner and start writing tickets,” Levacy added.

Mayor Dean Severance agreed, saying the crosswalk will be marked as soon as possible. He will ask ODOT to conduct the traffic study in July, August and September to cover both the heavier summer traffic and then the back-to-school traffic patterns.

“The stripes would be great,” Hempleman said. “Try that.” He also suggested placing a “Yield to Pedestrians” sign on the Valero lot.

Discussion then turned to the April proposal to eliminate one of the two pedestrian crosswalks across Lancaster Street downtown while improving the visibility of the remaining one.

“Very few people stop at the crosswalk by the Olde Canal,” coowner Faye Whittaker said. She suggested moving the Canal Street crosswalk about 30 feet north to the south side of the bridge over the canal. That move would save several downtown parking spaces. State law prohibits parking within 20 feet of a crosswalk or on a bridge. Moving it to the south side of the bridge adds 20 feet for parking.

“I think it is very workable,” Severance said.

In other council business, John Parker of Gardner Parker Insurance Associates, Inc. of Zanesville presented a proposal from the Ohio Plan for property and casualty insurance. The Ohio Plan is a consortium providing insurance to governmental entities in Ohio. His proposal represents an annual premium savings of about $6,000 with increased coverage.

The village recently renewed its property and casualty insurance, but council members authorized Severance to switch coverage to the Ohio Plan provided their current insurer provides a pro-rated refund. Earlier this year, council members agreed to move health insurance to a similar consortium at an annual savings of about $9,000.

After considerable discussion, council members agreed unanimously to cut pool operating hours to reduce expenses and encourage more pool parties. The pool had been open to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. The new hours are noon to 7 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays, noon to 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Council members set a special Finance Committee meeting for May 16 to discuss the pool.

Millersport Police began moving into their new home on May 16. The former water treatment plant has been completely remodeled exclusively with donated materials and labor. Police Chief John Shirk told council members that more than $78,000 in donations of time and materials have been made and the total grows daily. More than 30 individuals and companies have donated materials.

He also announced that the village cruisers will soon be outfitted with in-car video systems. Shirk picked up five camera systems at no cost from the City of Groveport. He also picked up a 10kw generator at no cost which will be used to provide backup power for the new police station.

With the move, the police department will now have its own direct business line. Emergency calls should still go to 9-1-1. The new business number will sound a bit unfamiliar at first. It is 929- 6105. Shirk said nothing was available in the typical 246 Millersport exchange. If no one is in the station, callers will have the option to be immediately transferred to the county dispatch center. Again any emergency calls should be made to 9-1-1, not the new direct business line.

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