Citizens express Poplar Street concerns

Safety concerns about Poplar Street were brought up twice during a recent Seymour City Council meeting.

Tyler Wessel, who works at Schneck Medical Center, presented a safety improvement option at the intersection of Brown and Poplar streets, where many hospital staff members cross from one parking lot to another going to and from work.

Tyler Henkle read a note from Kristan Ballard, who lives at Jackson and Poplar streets, expressing concern about that being among Poplar Street intersections with two-way stops and asking them to be changed to four-way stops.

Wessel said he talked to Schneck facilities officials about the streetlight near Brown and Poplar streets and was told to contact the city, which led him to contacting Duke Energy. He learned the streetlight is a public light.

“If anybody has been to this intersection, it is a very highly used intersection for the staff, and we’ve had some near-misses, near-hits there,” Wessel told the council.

“It’s dark. I’m just here to try to see if we could get a better light there or if that maybe one day it could be budgeted for,” he said. “There is a streetlight there just a little off to the right. It’s an older light, so just if there’s any thought of maybe replacing it with LED one day, that would be very much appreciated.”

Mayor Matt Nicholson said last year, the council approved a contract with Duke Energy to replace all of the cobra head streetlights with LED lights. That work is expected to start March 6.

“I don’t know how quickly they’ll be to your light, but it is coming as an LED,” Nicholson told Wessel.

“That’s great. That’s much appreciated,” Wessel replied. “I’ll be glad to share that with the staff who asked me about this numerous times in meetings and passings. The light does face one direction. The pole is actually leaning, so maybe we’ll have a new pole there soon because the fellow from Duke Energy did say there might be some work done, so I appreciate that and thank you for your time.”

Wessel also thanked the city for the recent pavement work done at the intersection that included lining the public crosswalks, which hospital staff uses.

“The painting there definitely helped,” he said. “It wasn’t anything that I really paid much attention to until we got some near-misses and then some folks saying some things, so I’ve just been advocating at Schneck and abroad for maybe a better option.”

Henkle told the council he was speaking on behalf of Ballard since she had to work at the time of the meeting. He met her through conversations he has been having with people around the city.

Ballard said she has seen multiple incidents where people approaching the Jackson Street two-way stop do not stop. That’s also a school bus stop.

“This could make things very unsafe not only for our children but any of our loved ones for failure to follow a simple stop,” Ballard wrote. “This needs to be a four-way intersection at best before we see the unthinkable happen here for failure to stop.”

Ballard said she wants the speed limit and stop signs to be followed at every intersection on Poplar Street.

Councilman Jerry Hackney said he has the accident reports from the last five years, and there’s currently a unit in the area measuring the speed on the street and collecting data.

“As soon as we get that, I’ll get back in touch with you and let you know what’s going on with it,” Hackney told Henkle.

Henkle said he grew up nearby on Walnut Street and had many close calls riding west on his scooter toward the intersections with Poplar Street.

“It really sounds like those three intersections are kind of a hazard,” he said of Brown, Laurel and Jackson streets.

“You can’t make people stop, but those four-ways, at least they could put something in the works there,” Henkle said. “It’s still probably going to lead to close calls because that’s what we’re seeing literally just three streets up from the Jackson intersection. It just seems like something that maybe would be expedited to an extent if possible. I know collecting the data may even say there hasn’t been enough accidents at this intersection for us to warrant a stop sign.”

Councilman Drew Storey said the council looks at more than just that. There also are complaints or reports of near-misses, and Councilman Bret Cunningham said a couple of on-street parking spots would be lost if a stop sign was erected because motorists have to be able to see the stop signs.

“It’s just some of the challenges that go with it,” Cunningham said. “There’s just a lot to measure. There are a lot of different things we’ve got to look at.”

Seymour Police Department Chief Greg O’Brien said because people park on both sides of Poplar Street, motorists traveling east and west have to inch out into the intersections to see if another vehicle is coming their way on Poplar Street.

“People don’t see until they are out in the street because cars are so close. It’s congested down there,” he said. “When I was looking at traffic data, (accidents) don’t happen at the intersections. A lot of sideswipes going on down through there.”

Councilman Chad Hubbard said he agreed with the concerns. He said he was almost hit by a vehicle numerous times while walking in the area with his granddaughter.

“It is crazy those three intersections,” he said.

Henkle said he’s glad to see the council is engaged in the process of assessing speed in the area.

“But it seems like even if you go through this entire process, you’re going to still miss out on a lot of the data, that real world that is happening,” he said. “I would hate for tomorrow somebody to get clipped there.”