The West Jefferson Board of Aldermen gave the green light to have the red light removed from the intersection of Second Avenue and Jefferson Avenue to make way for the last phase of the downtown “streetscape” project.
In a 4-1 vote during the board’s regular monthly meeting Monday night, the Aldermen adopted the preliminary plans submitted to the town by the N.C. Department of Transportation for the final phase of the $275,000 downtown beautification project.
Alderman Calvin Green voted against the plan. Aldermen Tom Hartman, Dr. Brett Summey, Stephen Shoemaker and John Reeves, who, during his campaign for the seat on the board, didn’t support the last phase of the project, voted to approve the project.
Reeves addressed his change of mind during the comments portion of a public hearing about the project.
“At first I was against it…I didn’t know a lot about it,” said Reeves, who acknowledged that while campaigning for the open seat on the board last fall that he had opposed converting the Second and Jefferson Avenue intersection into a streetscape.
“After looking at it further, I feel like it would be a benefit to us,” said Reeves.
Reeves also said he was swayed by the benefit of having better control of storm water in the downtown area. The streetscape plan proposed by the DOT would help alleviate some of the issues with downtown flooding that occur during heavy rainfalls.
Green offered his view, during the board’s discussion on the proposal, on why he was voting against the project.
He said that he had voted against the project the first time it was proposed and would oppose it again.
Specifically, he said he was not in favor of losing the three-lane roadway from the intersection down to the Wilco-Hess convenience store.
He also said that during his re-election campaign in the fall that “hardly anyone was coming up to me and asking me to take it down (the traffic signal).”
“I said no then. I’m going to say no tonight,” said Green.
Shoemaker said his primary concern was one of pedestrian safety in supporting the project.
“It is the most precarious intersection in town. The safety of pedestrians outweigh any concerns about traffic flow,” Shoemaker said.
Green added that he had lived in West Jefferson his whole life and didn’t remember any pedestrian ever being injured at the intersection.
Shoemaker responded with, “it only takes one.”
During the public comments portion of the meeting about the project, two people spoke in favor of the project.
Nicole Robinson from the Catchlight Gallery, which is located just off the intersection, supported the project.
“It will be a great thing to finish up our streetscape and a huge advantage for everyone on that side of the street. I would appreciate the consideration,” said Robinson.
Joe Blevins, a local photographer whose work hangs in the Catchlight Gallery also supported the project.
“It would be nice to finish up the project. It’s good to have people downtown and this will add to it,” said Blevins.
West Jefferson Mayor Dale Baldwin wanted to make sure the board would have a chance to offer any feedback on the project after it had been approved.
Town Manager Brantley Price said the DOT drawings were preliminary and because 80 percent of the funding would be supplied by the federal government (the state is supplying the additional 20 percent), bids would be needed from engineers to provide the final blueprints.
However, he assured Baldwin the town would be able to review the blueprints before it is finalized.
The preliminary plans provided by the DOT included the removal of the traffic signal at the intersection and the elimination of all the turn lanes. The intersection would be converted into four-way stop, identical to the two other streetscape projects in the downtown.
Price said funding for the project will cover the costs of street lamps, waste receptacles, and benches. He also said the plans would help with storm water drainage.
Reach Editor Cliff Clark at email@example.com or call 336-846-7164.