MOUNT VERNON — The Knox County Commissioners and members of City Council discussed a variety of issues when they met Monday night, including an east-end fire/EMS station.
Commissioner Allen Stockberger said he would personally prefer the city lease about two acres in the area of U.S. 36 and Upper Gilchrist Road, rather than the county selling the land to the city. Leasing would allow the land to remain with the county should the city ever pull the fire station.
Initial discussion involved the station being built back from Upper Gilchrist Road, with access to the station off the road leading to the Knox County Sheriff's Office. However, Mount Vernon Fire Chief Shawn Christy said he would prefer emergency vehicles exit the station directly onto Upper Gilchrist.
“That is going to allow us to get out faster, and also protect the [jail] driveway,” he said.
Christy said vehicles could return to the station via an access road off of Upper Gilchrist Road, come into the station from the back and pull through, coming to rest facing Upper Gilchrist Road.
Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Mavis said a station in the U.S. 36/Upper Gilchrist Road area would provide a quicker way to get EMS vehicles to the south side of the city. Going south on Upper Gilchrist Road, engines cannot make the turn on the current roadway, but planned road improvements will accommodate the engines.
Officials also discussed a connector road between U.S. 36 and Ohio 229. The connecting corridor would involve Upper Gilchrist to New Gambier Road, to Eastern Star Road to Ohio 229. City officials applied for federal stimulus funds for the project.
Mavis said the city and Monroe Township share responsibility for Upper Gilchrist Road. Although the city can perform maintenance work to the road, in order for it to be widened, the township has to support the plan. According to Mavis, the trustees said their constituents believe road improvements will bring more traffic to the area.
Safety-Service Director Dave Glass said officials need to work through these bureaucratic issues because increased vehicle traffic and narrow roadways have become a safety issue. A recent traffic count showed 5,050 vehicles each day travel on Eastern Star Road, up from 3,000-plus noted in the previous study.
Mavis said Pleasant Township is supportive of road improvements, and that the city does not necessarily need money from Monroe Township, but it does need Monroe Township’s support for the project.
Councilman Burt Hanson said he has talked with some of the residents in the area, and they think the road is unsafe due to being so narrow.
“I think we should not make the assumption those people are opposed to it,” he said.
Mavis said he met with Clinton Township Trustees regarding a name change to Blackjack Road. Nine homes would be affected; there is opposition to a name change by at least one resident. Trustee Gary Rowe suggested a meeting between township, county and city officials be arranged to discuss it further.
Fairgrounds Road was cited as an example of the need to correct house numbers in areas surrounding the city. According to Glass, city numbers start at Mansfield Road and go east; county numbers start at Wooster Road and go west. Both numbering systems start out lower at each end of Fairgrounds Road, then go in ascending order, meeting in the middle. Christy said this causes confusion for emergency personnel responding to calls.
It was agreed since the road is served by city fire, the commissioners will take the lead in getting the numbering system changed for their constituents.
Other issues discussed include:
•A cellular tower on Upper Gilchrist Road.
•It was agreed an easily accessible piece of land should be found for a community garden next year. Stockberger said this type of project fits in with the mission of OSU Extension.
•Mavis said he spoke with the individual who owns land along the route that would connect the Kokosing Gap Trail with the Heart of Ohio Trail, through Foundation Park. He said the owner is receptive to allowing the city to acquire a 15- to 20-foot wide strip for the trail. Some of the land is contiguous to the city, which allows for annexation into the city. Some is not contiguous, and remains in the county’s possession. Mavis said the city is looking at a 2011-12 time frame for completion of the trail.
•City and county officials agreed to split the cost of repaving the alley by the Childrens Advocacy Center.
•Lack of available space at the cat shelter was discussed. Mavis said the city has a problem with feral cats. People are allowed to live trap them, but there is no place to take them. Stockberger said the county has discontinued funding the shelter because the commissioners believe the shelter is not living up to its mission of being available to accept cats. Being available to accept all cats may mean hard decisions have to be made, he said, such as euthanizing some of the animals. He also said a $35 fee for accepting a cat is not consistent with the shelter’s original mission.
Commissioner Bob Wise said he was told there were 130 cats at the shelter last week, down from over 200. The shelter is run by the Knox County Humane Society.
•Commissioner Teresa Bemiller asked city officials to check into the timing of traffic lights, noting there is a backup of traffic in front of the county parking lot on East Chestnut Street. This makes it difficult to get in and out of the lot. Glass said increased traffic has caused the intersection at Gay and Chestnut streets to be congested as well.
Stockberger also asked Glass to see if the light at McKenzie and Chestnut could switch to flash at 10 p.m. Glass will look into both situations.