2014-04-12 / News

4-way stop to replace light

By Charles Prince

A promised decision on the village’s only traffic light brought a standing-room-only crowd to the April 8 Millersport Village Council meeting. Beacon photo by Charles Prince. A promised decision on the village’s only traffic light brought a standing-room-only crowd to the April 8 Millersport Village Council meeting. Beacon photo by Charles Prince. MILLERSPORT – A standing room only crowd spent more than an hour Tuesday night discussing the Lancaster Street and Refugee Road intersection with Mayor Dean Severance and village council members.

The village’s only traffic light currently controls the intersection. Safety Committee Chair Gary Matheny and Street Superintendent Gilbert Arnold opened the discussion.

The biggest problem is when northbound drivers get stuck behind a vehicle waiting to turn left onto Refugee Road. Many drivers – a one day survey saw dozens – swing right to go around the vehicle waiting to turn left. That move, which is a traffic violation, puts the vehicle into the marked sidewalk along the entrance to the Circle K gas station. Pastor Steve Bush was nearly struck on the sidewalk about two years ago. His complaint and concern for young and elderly pedestrians prompted village officials to take another look at the intersection.

Fourth grader Gavin Hanners created and passed a petition for STOP (Stop Taking Our Pool). Millersport resident Carolyn Jo Montgomery was one of dozens of residents who signed to help save the village’s swimming pool. Courtesy photo. Fourth grader Gavin Hanners created and passed a petition for STOP (Stop Taking Our Pool). Millersport resident Carolyn Jo Montgomery was one of dozens of residents who signed to help save the village’s swimming pool. Courtesy photo. Severance asked ODOT to conduct a traffic study when school was in session last fall. The study was conducted from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.on Thursday, Sept. 12.

Ohio Department of Transportation traffic engineer Ty Thompson told village council members at their Nov. 12 meeting that the traffic light doesn’t meet any of the department’s criteria for volume of traffic, safety (number of crashes in a 12 month period), or the number of pedestrians or students using a crosswalk at the intersection.

But the decision to keep it or remove it is solely the village’s to make. Since it is not a state signal or owned by ODOT, Thompson said, “ It is not an ODOT call.”

He suggested two alternatives to the light. Convert the intersection to a two-way stop with stop signs on Refugee and at the Circle K or into a four-way stop.

“Two-way will be a more efficient operation,” Thompson said, noting that three times as many vehicles are traveling on Lancaster Street as on Refugee.

“There is not that much traffic out there,” he added. “A two-way stop would be safer overall.”

Retaining the light would be costly, both Arnold and Matheny said. A second signal must be installed on the Circle K side, the light will likely have to be replaced due to the required update to LED lighting, and it will likely need a new controller. “Electricity for the light is also an expense,” Council President Charles Mesko pointed out.

“It’s going to be very expensive to keep the light,” Matheny said. Arnold has completed plans for a 30 foot sidewalk with an eight inch curb across part of the area now open to Circle K. A regional manager has agreed to the plan. There would still be an entrance to the gas station just after the bridge and a larger one opposite Refugee Road, but motorists could no longer enter the station at any point along the Lancaster Street frontage.

Council members emphasized that the process to remove a traffic light is lengthy and could be reversed if safety is compromised. Thompson said it’s a four to six month process. First the signal goes on flash for 90 days and is reviewed for crashes and traffic pattern observations. Assuming nothing unexpected occurs, the next step is to bag it for 60 days, preserving the ability to put it back in service should actual experience warrant it.

Reaction to possibly removing the light was more subdued than council members anticipated.

“I think the light is a nuisance,” one resident said. A selfidentified walker said she nearly got hit at the intersection when the electricity was out, but otherwise hadn’t had any problems there.

Severance asked for a show of hands on retaining or moving the light. Most didn’t express an opinion with just a handful on each side.

The next question was whether it should be a two-way or four-way stop. Tom Turner said a two-way stop would make it difficult for Refugee Road drivers to see around Commodore Bank to make the turn safely onto Lancaster Street. Mark Thogmartin is concerned about Lancaster Street being “wide open north and south” with a two way stop sign. He said drivers would wait less at a four-way stop than at the light.

Janet Neely wants to retain the light so children and those who don’t move as fast anymore have time to get across the street. Changing to stop signs requires them to “dart” across the street.

Arnold said a four-way stop would make it difficult for vehicles exiting the bank drive-thru window. “It is not an easy decision,” he said.

Tom Tweddle favors a twoway stop for the more efficient flow of traffic.

“It is at best a troubling situation,” Mesko acknowledged. “We’re running out of time now.”

When Severance asked for a show of hands on the option to the light, residents by a three to four to one margin favored a fourway stop. Council members then unanimously agreed to conduct the ODOT set trial period with a four-way stop.

In other business Tuesday night, several Terrace Street residents complained about their backyards constantly being wet. “We are hopefully going to pave Terrace this year,” Arnold said. He hopes to bank the street to move the water away from the backyards. Arnold said homeowners could install French drains on their property and he would then help them connect to village drains. Property owners would be responsible for all the work on their property.

Barb Hanners said she was “very concerned bout the village losing the swimming pool.” She said the pool “fits everyone,” noting that some of the other options for recreation do not. Hanners said it is important that children learn how to swim. She suggested giving residents an opportunity to vote on the future of the pool.

“The pool is an asset and has been an asset for years,” Severance responded. Matheny said the village is losing about $25,000 a year on the pool. The recent typical $15,000 per year loss is more like $25,000 because the Board of Public Affairs isn’t charging the village for the water used at the pool, he said. Matheny also noted that village employees have put a lot of time into repairs and upgrades without their time being charged to the pool.

“We need people to help us bridge the gap,” Severance said. Matheny said the “well is running dry” on business donations for the pool.

“I don’t want six or seven people to decide for the whole town,” Hanners concluded.

Lisa Brown was introduced as the this year’s pool manager. She and her husband volunteered countless hours at the pool last year. She hopes to set a volunteer day to get the pool ready for the season. Brown also plans to come up with a list of needed supplies to see if they can be donated rather than purchased.

Mayor’s assistant Vince Popo said another volleyball court will be added at the pool for this summer for a total of two.

“It really took off,” he said. “We have no leaks right now,” he reported, but reminded council members that everything is 44 years old.

Popo said it seems like it is taking forever, but the old Sohio station on Lancaster Street should be demolished by the end of the month. Everything was ready for the demolition contractor who then had to have surgery. He said another couple weeks isn’t much of a delay since it has taken him 10 years to get to this point with the dilapidated building. Council member David Sherrer asked if the site could be used for community gardens this summer. Popo said that depends on the quality of the soil, reminding him that it used to be a service station.

Police Chief Mark Consolo reported that the department is starting a program for Explorer Scouts. Four new officers are completing training.

Council members decided to accept bids for the surplus 1994 Chevrolet 3500 Dump Truck until 4:30 p.m. on Friday, May 9. The bids will be opened at the next regular council meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 13. More details are available in an Invitation for Bids ad on Page 14.

Severance encouraged residents to attend the electric aggregation information session set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 15, at the Walnut Township offices. A representative from Palmer Electric will be explaining the May 6 ballot issue. Only AEP customers will be able to participate.

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