By Brandon Martin
Personal tragedy prompted a Martinsville woman to take action and try to make Martinsville streets safer for all.
Donna Acuna-Rivera addressed members of Martinsville City Council, requesting either a stoplight or rumble strips be placed at the intersection of Moss and Market streets, citing multiple collisions and even a death.
“I come before you praying that you will take into consideration putting a stoplight or some kind of warning signal at the intersection of Moss and Market street,” she said. “There have been numerous wrecks and one fatality.”
Acuna-Rivera’s uncle, John Vincent Eames, was pronounced dead after being struck by a vehicle while crossing the intersection in October.
Acuna-Rivera said that wasn’t the first time safety at the intersection has been a concern.
“My grandchildren, when they went to school, there bus almost got hit there. Am I going to have to watch my great grandchildren and their bus almost get hit there,” she asked.
She said the main issue was that there isn’t a crosswalk in the area, and the fact that the intersection is situated between two hills – both of which act as blind spots.
“You cannot see over the hills coming up to Moss and Market. People speed up coming up the hill. They don’t think about a person crossing the road, they just think about getting up the hill,” she added.
With her mother’s help, Acuna-Rivera said she collected 173 signatures in support of stronger safety measure on a petition which was submitted to City Manager Leon Towarnicki.
“It was about 6,7,8 pages of signatures,” Towarnicki said. “We will take another look at that. As I recall, about ten years ago, we did a traffic signal study there. We hired a company to take a look at that. Typically, what they do is look at traffic counts, accident data. They look at pedestrian counts. They look at all of that information,” he said.
The data collected by the company “ points you in the direction on if you signalize an intersection or not,” Towarnicki said.
City Council Member Danny Turner agreed with Acuna-Rivera’s estimation of the hills serving as blind spots.
“That is kind of a blind spot both ways. You better have your giddy-up and ready-to-go when you get there,” Turner said.
Vice Mayor Chad Martin said he has “left from that intersection and almost got tagged as well.” He noted that council had the option of adding rumble strips if a stoplight cannot be installed.
Before asking Towarnicki to look further into it, Mayor Kathy Lawson said “it is the only intersection on Market that does not have a traffic light.”
In other matters at the Feb. 11 meeting, council members:
*Agreed to continue a public hearing regarding a request from Homero Sandoval Ramos for a Special Use Permit to start a custom designed vehicle wrap business on Clearview Drive, in the former Midget Market building. The hearing will reconvene on May 12, which will allow for Ramos to create a development plan to present to Building and Zoning Official Kris Bridges.
Jennifer Bowles, council member, raised the concern about conducting the car wrapping inside since the building currently doesn’t have a way for a car to enter the building.
“We are looking at what would be our best option,” Jalen Ramos said. “Obviously, we are going to have to make a garage door to get a vehicle in but there is a lot of work that we are going to have to do to that building.”
A few residents voiced opposition to the business during a Jan. 23 public hearing held by the Planning Commission. Towarnicki said concerns voiced at that meeting included “traffic, vehicles being stored at the rear of the property, upkeep, and accumulation of trash.”
Ramos’ son, Jalen Ramos, addressed the concerns expressed at the Jan. 23 meeting, according to Towarnicki. Concerned residents were told “they would always endeavor to keep the property kept up from trash, no junk cars. He mentioned this is not to be a junk yard. He stated that they would do everything they can to make the building look nice for the community and that vehicles will only be stored outside after they were completely wrapped until customer pick-up,” Towarnicki said.
Ramos now has 90 days to develop a plan of action to be presented at the next meeting.
*Set a public hearing for Feb. 25 in regards to rezoning property on Aaron Street, which Landmark Property Management Company plans to develop into multi-family senior housing, and set another public hearing for the same date regarding a planned Community Development Block Grant for the Pine Hall Road area. Currently there are plans of extending broadband into the area.
*Heard a report from Water Resources Director Mike Kahle, who presented an update on fiscal year 2020 Water Resources Operations. Total water revenue through Dec. 31 was $1,802,087, with expenses at $1,643,448 and net revenue of $158,639.
Waste water revenues were $2,054,238 and expenses were $2,410,550, for a net revenue of -$356,312. Towarnicki attributed the deficit to capital expenditures at the beginning of the year. He said he expects revenues to catch up by the end of the fiscal year.
*Michael Stowers, from the U.S. Census Bureau, spoke about the upcoming census that begins April 1. He said they are currently in need of thousands of employees.
“I’m here to encourage if you are looking for a part-time job,” he said. “They typically start at $13-15 an hour. They are flexible hours based on your ability.”
He also discussed the importance of gathering accurate numbers on the census.
“There is a lot of money at stake; $675 billion of federal aid that is going to be dispersed. It’s based on your census numbers. Not only the legislative boundaries being drawn, but a lot money is going to be portioned out. Things like hospitals, roads, Medicaid, Medicare, SNAP programs, Section 8 housing,” he said.
He added that about $2,000 is lost for each person that isn’t get counted.
“That is money that is not flowing into your community,” Stowers said.