PAXTON — Some of the most dangerous of the city’s numerous unmarked intersections may be getting yield or stop signs if one Paxton alderman gets his way.
Alderman Mike Wilson said he recently asked Police Chief Coy Cornett to complete a traffic study of the town’s unmarked intersections, which have no stop or yield signs on any of their four sides.
“He came up with a list of about 15 where there have been accidents,” Wilson told the city council Tuesday night, “and a couple of them stand out more than others as far as the number of accidents in the last few years.”
Wilson suggested either yield or stop signs be installed at the most hazardous intersections.
“To me, it seems like we have an awful lot of unmarked intersections in Paxton,” Wilson said, “and so where there’s been accidents maybe we can do something simple to help alleviate some of the dangers.”
The traffic study, obtained by the Ford County Record from Wilson, shows that of the 309 accidents reported to Paxton police since 2014, a total of 34 — 11 percent — were at unmarked intersections. Nine occurred in 2014, eight in 2015, seven in 2016, five each in 2017 and 2018 and one in 2019.
The unmarked intersection with the most accidents in the past five years — nine — is at Pells and Maple streets.
Three accidents have occurred in that time frame at Union Street and Ottawa Road.
Two accidents have occurred since 2014 at five intersections (Union/Fulton, Vermilion/Prospect, Strong/Prospect, Maple/State and Maple/Orleans), while one accident has occurred in the past five years at 12 others (Maple/Center, Maple/Holmes, Vermilion/Spruce, Vermilion/State, Cherry/State, Union/Orleans, Union/Bogardus, American/Holmes, American/Patton, Orleans/Winter, Orleans/College and College/Center).
Also during the meeting:
➜ The council voted unanimously to direct City Attorney Marc Miller to draft an ordinance for approval in May to allow for the installation of stop signs at a three-way intersection immediately north of the two-story addition being built on Clara Peterson Elementary School’s east side. The three signs would stop traffic on Franklin and High streets and Meridian Terrace, with the hope that they will help traffic flow smoother in the area and keep children safer once the school addition opens this fall. Meanwhile, Mayor Bill Ingold said the city also plans to widen an area of High Street in the immediate area of the intersection in order to make it more easily passable by school buses. The police chief also said the council should be prepared to soon approve the installation of “no parking” signs on the south side of Franklin Street in front of the school, in an area spanning from College to High streets. The parking restriction would allow for school buses to use the south side of Franklin Street to pick up and drop off students. Cornett noted that parents will be using an area behind the school to pick up and drop off students. With the school addition almost finished, Wilson suggested the council also start exploring the possibility of installing sidewalks on Summer Street due to anticipated increased foot traffic there by students. “Some spots don’t have any sidewalks at all there,” Wilson noted.
➜ For the second meeting in a row, the council postponed taking any action on making a donation to Show Bus, a public transportation service serving residents of nine counties in rural Central Illinois, including Ford. Last month, the council postponed voting on the proposed donation because there was no representative of Show Bus in attendance, and aldermen wanted to first hear more about how many Paxton residents use the service. A Showbus representative was invited to attend Tuesday’s meeting, but no one showed up. “If they could send us some information, that would at least be helpful,” Alderman Rob Pacey said.
➜ Comptroller/Treasurer Tammy Jensen said she was working on “file disposition” through the state of Illinois, which she said has not been done since 1995. To dispose of files that do not need to be retained, the city plans to shred them sometime before the end of the year. The mayor said he would like to allow community members to use the shredding service free of charge whenever the city decides to shred its files.
➜ The council approved a list of roads to be repaired using motor-fuel tax (MFT) revenue this summer and also authorized the mayor to sign related paperwork that will be sent to the Illinois Department of Transportation for its approval in preparation for bids being sought from contractors. The list shows an estimated $145,083 in road repairs, including on East Ottawa Road, from Washington to Park streets; on Fall Street, from Orleans to Pells streets; on College Street, from Orleans to Pells streets; on Allison Drive, from Summer Street to the second curve; on High Street, from Center to Patton streets; and on Elm Street, from Patton to Franklin streets. Those were considered the highest-priority projects by Public Works Director Mark LeClair. Due to budget constraints, the city will have to wait to complete an estimated $123,382 in additional road repairs elsewhere. The projects to be completed this summer will exhaust the $150,000 currently available in MFT funds, but the mayor said the city expects to “build back up” its MFT funds by this time next year, noting the city typically brings in about $7,000 or $8,000 per month in MFT revenue.
➜ LeClair said non-MFT-related repairs to Holmes Street would begin this week.
➜ The council approved spending $29,868 on the purchase of a new Case skidsteer for use by the public works department. LeClair said his department’s 2012 Caterpillar skidsteer will be traded in toward the purchase of the new, larger one from Birkey’s Farm Store in Gibson City. The new skidsteer comes with a three-year warranty. LeClair noted that the old skidsteer has cost the city “quite a bit of money” to repair it — “probably about half of what this (new) one costs.”
➜ LeClair said he had ordered a new pump for the lift station on Vermilion Street for $26,529. One of the lift station’s three existing pumps “burned out on us and went out” recently, he said.
➜ The council discussed repairs to the pavilion at Pells Park. In order to stabilize a weak beam inside the structure, the mayor said a contractor will put what he referred to as “flitch plates” on each side of it for a cost of $8,000. The metal plates are half an inch thick, 14 inches wide and 22 feet long, weighing between 800 and 900 pounds apiece. The plates will be bolted to the beam and painted white. The mayor also said repairs to the stage area in the pavilion will be made for an estimated cost of $9,500. Among the repairs are the replacement of rotten joists, the replacement of the doors on the back area of the stage, the installation of vinyl soffit, the repainting of the stage, the removal of the stage’s front steps, and the installation of new wooden steps with wooden handrails on each side of the stage. The work is expected to be completed in June, in advance of the community’s Independence Day celebration being held there. Meanwhile, the mayor said funds for the replacement of the pavilion’s roof will be put in the budget for next fiscal year, which begins May 1. A $12,500 donation given to the city last year will be used to help fund the roof work.
➜ The removal of trees is being done in a vacant lot donated to the city by the estate of former mayor L. John Lee, LeClair said. Also, the bleachers that Mr. Lee had built in the lot, located immediately next to Nelson Field, are being taken apart, and their boards are being replaced and repainted.
➜ The mayor said he expects the council’s city property committee, chaired by Alderman Eric Evans, to meet sometime soon to continue to discuss the possibility of allowing outdoor dining by the Harvest Ale House downtown. After speaking with the restaurant’s owner, Ben Grice, Ingold said one possible scenario is to allow outdoor dining on the south side of the sidewalk on the restaurant’s north end, with tables being put up against the building. Other options continue to be explored, as well, but Ingold said that scenario would at least allow outdoor dining without any major project needing to be completed in that area to accommodate it. “I don’t think we want to spend the money to take the whole sidewalk out (to accommodate outdoor dining),” Ingold said.
➜ Pacey, chairman of the council’s community committee, said he was still working with the Paxton Area Chamber of Commerce to determine a site for the chamber-sponsored farmers’ market this summer. Pacey said the farmers’ market most likely will not return to Majestic Park downtown, but he said the chamber is still “looking at a couple of options to keep it downtown or close to it, if possible.”
➜ The city’s new and improved website is expected to be launched on Wednesday, April 17, Jensen said. Among features of the new website is the ability for the public to reserve the pavilion at Pells Park online, Ingold said. Also, the site lists the council’s meeting agendas and minutes, city ordinances and other information, including a list of frequently asked questions. “It’s just way more functional,” Jensen said.
➜ The building on West Ottawa Road that used to occupy the Country Garden Restaurant is expected to have a new restaurant in business there within about a week, the council learned. The new restaurant is called the Country House. The mayor said he met with the new restaurant’s owner recently and was told that the menu will be similar to the Country Garden’s. Ingold said the owner is also interested in eventually obtaining a liquor license to allow the sale of beer and wine there. Ingold added that the owner is interested in having the restaurant listed on a sign on nearby Interstate 57 featuring places to eat in Paxton.
➜ Ingold said he has been unable to confirm any truth behind rumors about what may be happening with the former Pizza Hut building on West Ottawa Road.
➜ The council learned that work continues on the possible sale of the building in the 100 block of North Market Street that is currently owned by the Paxton Masonic Lodge. A group of investors is interested in buying the building and using its first floor for a dental practice.
➜ A required 90-day environmental study is under way in preparation for the city’s proposed million-dollar downtown streetscape improvement project, Ingold said. Bids for the project are expected to be sought from contractors next year.
➜ The council learned that a newly planted tree will be dedicated on Arbor Day (April 26) to the FFA chapter at Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School, which Ingold said does a lot of work in the community that “goes unnoticed.”
➜ With Paxton-Buckley-Loda Junior High School’s eighth-grade graduation ceremony occurring on the same night as the city council’s May meeting — and with Wilson and Jensen planning to attend the graduation ceremony — the council made plans to begin the meeting at 7:30 p.m. instead of 7 p.m.
➜ The mayor recognized Alderman Linda Glad and Alderman Bill Wylie, both of whom will be departing the council next month after opting not to seek re-election. Glad has been an alderman since April 2013, while Wylie has served as an alderman three separate times, most recently since May 2017. Each received a round of applause for their service to the city.
➜ Ingold said the red, white and blue mailbox located outside the former American Legion building on East Pells Street — which has been used to collect residents’ used American flags — will be moved to an area by the flagpole outside the police department’s headquarters at 755 N. Railroad Ave. Necessitating the relocation of the mailbox was the recent sale of the Legion’s building. Ingold said the building was sold due to dwindling membership in the organization. Resident Bob Nuckols is “touching (the mailbox) up with paint” in preparation for its relocation, Ingold said. In a related matter, Ingold said Nuckols is also making “an appropriate device in which to respectfully retire flags.” Ingold said the plan is to have a ceremony each time flags are retired, too. In the past, the flags deposited in the mailbox had been burned in burn barrels behind the Legion building.
➜ The council met in closed session to discuss specific employees of the city.