Sometimes when the public speaks, government actually listens.
Case in point there were over a dozen members of First Christian Church, who complained to the Corbin City Commission during a special meeting Friday morning about the city’s recent changes to Kentucky Avenue.
The city recently moved the centerline for parts of Kentucky Avenue to the right, eliminating parking on the right hand side of the road in front of the church, and creating designated parking spots on the left hand side of the street.
Mayor Suzy Razmus started off by explaining that the changes were made with “good intentions” and with safety being the number one concern since some people seemingly drive up to 55 mph at times on the street.
The changes were something that Razmus worked with
City Manager Marlon Sams to come up with as a way to slow down traffic on the road, and add parking spaces on the left hand side of the street.
Sams said that he and Public Workers Director Gary Kelly started out looking at adding parking to both sides of the street with an initial plan to add up to 50 additional parking spaces.
He said the plan was submitted to state transportation officials, who suggested putting the parking places only on the left hand side of the street due to safety concerns. This is the reason the 18 designated parking spaces were added on the left hand side of the street.
The master plan that the city approved two years ago called for the elimination of parking on the right hand side of Kentucky Avenue, Razmus added.
“I just felt with the additional foot traffic that is happening downtown it was important to take public safety in hand. I did not consider that the right side of Kentucky Avenue was used by as much as it was by First Christian Church,” Razmus explained.
“I apologize. I figured the parking lot was sufficient with the additional parking that is delineated on the left side as well as now we will have eight additional spaces on the First Street side. I didn’t know it would be that big of a deal. That is why we went forward with this. It was for the greater good of the entire community in mind.”
Church members speak
Church member Leann Thurman Strunk noted that the church has many programs including the first and only regional drop off center for the international Shoebox ministry, and a food pantry program, which often times serves people with limited mobility.
“To achieve many of these activities, we desperately need parking close to our church,” Strunk said. “We have the handicapped ramp on Kentucky Avenue. We reserve this parking area for our handicapped members during church activities on Sunday and Wednesday. Many of our church members need assistance with walking, and are unable to utilize our steps.”
Because of the moving of the centerline and the elimination or parking spaces in front of the building, Strunk noted that the sidewalk is only 12 inches away from the speeding cars on Kentucky Avenue rather than having a buffer zone with the parking spots.
“Honestly, we don’t understand the need to remove over 20 parking spaces on Kentucky. It seems like common sense to increase rather than decrease the number of parking spaces for the downtown community,” Strunk added. “Please give us back our parking on Kentucky Avenue.”
She added that her church received a text from state highway department officials in Manchester, who stated that the centerline was repainted at the request of the city, and they had nothing to do with it.
Rev. Dr. Robert Tibbs, who is the church pastor, noted that this isn’t a matter of convenience for the church, but rather a matter of ministry.
Many of the people utilizing the church’s ministries have limited mobility, and have difficulty walking from the curb inside the building let alone from walking across the street, Tibbs added.
“We moved the food ministry right up to the door where people walk in,” he said. “That is what we desperately need back.”
Longtime church member Juanita Dudley suggested that the city could install three-way stop signs or a stoplight if it was concerned about traffic moving too fast on Kentucky Avenue.
“Please don’t leave us out of the equation. We do help a lot. I want you to think about this. If it was your church, how would you feel?” Dudley asked.
‘Madder than hell’
Commissioner Trent Knuckles noted that he would be “madder than hell” if the city were to paint a yellow line in front of his business prohibiting parking, especially if it was done without consulting or notifying him first.
“The end result is not more desirable than what we had,” Knuckles said.
Knuckles said that he was shocked when he drove down Kentucky Avenue and saw all the changes.
“We talk about adding parking. You could already park in all the places that we marked. We didn’t add anything. We lost parking, 22 or 23 spaces by my count. This doesn’t even make any sense to me,” Knuckles said adding that he didn’t know anything about the changes beforehand.”
“All we were ever told was we were going to mark some spaces on the left-hand side of Kentucky so people knew they could park there … I don’t think it is right. I don’t think it was done right. I think it is disrespectful just to do this to people and not even ask them if they are OK with it.”
“We initiated this. We can fix it. We have done the wrong thing so now we just need to do the right thing and reverse it,” Knuckles added.
Knuckles made a motion to return Kentucky Avenue to “the way it was,” and the commission unanimously approved the motion followed by a round of applause by many of those in attendance.
There was no indication during the meeting on when these changes would be implemented.
“It can’t be done overnight,” Sams noted.