Bel looks to improve crosswalk safety

By Matt Lasley -

Bel Brands USA this week requested assistance from the City of Leitchfield to improve the safety of the crosswalk used by its employees on Highway 54.

Daphne Mattingly, Safety Supervisor at the Bel Brands USA Leitchfield plant, addressed the Leitchfield City Council on Monday, Aug. 15 regarding the need for safety precautions at the Highway 54 crosswalk at the plant.

A number of months ago, a video began circulating of a Bel Brands employee who was nearly struck by a vehicle while crossing the Highway 54 crosswalk.

Since then, both Bel Brands USA and the Leitchfield Police Department (LPD) have looked into methods of making the crosswalk safer.

Mattingly said that speed is not the primary factor of the incidents, but, rather, distracted driving and poor visibility in darker hours.

“We’d like to improve visibility at the crosswalk and engage pedestrians [to pay attention when crossing the road],” said Mattingly.

According to Mattingly, Bel has already received approval from the state to install road signs and repaint the crosswalk, but the company would also like to improve the lighting in the area, as well.

To do so, Bel requested approval from the city to increase the wattage of the light bulbs on the light poles near the crosswalk, which would increase the city’s bill by $15 or $20 more per month.

“We want to be proactive to prevent a tragedy in our community,” said Mattingly, adding that Bel would like to partner 50/50 with the city for further safety improvements, as well.

Leitchfield Police Detective Kevin Smith said the LPD has recently performed a number of traffic studies in the area, and he presented the findings to the City Council.

According to the study, the maximum speed a vehicle drove through the area in question was 107 miles per hour, Smith said, adding that the posted speed limit is 35 mph.

Additionally, Smith said that, of the more than 102,000 vehicles that drove through that area during the study, approximately 565 would have received citations and .6 percent of drivers would have been speeding.

“Anyone we’ve caught speeding, we have issued citations,” Smith said.

Mattingly presented packets of Bel Brands’ desired improvements to the crosswalk to city officials, which they will review.

However, during the meeting, the City Council voted to approve increasing the wattage of bulbs in the light poles near the crosswalk.

The Leitchfield Bel Brands USA plant currently employs about 350 people, according to Mattingly.

In other business:

*The City Council approved the second and final reading of an ordinance establishing the position of Leitchfield Animal Shelter Director.

Additionally, Leitchfield Chief of Police Kevin Henderson said that Jessica Fulkerson has been hired as Leitchfield Animal Shelter Director, and Grace Heaverin has been hired as Leitchfield Animal Control Officer.

Also, Henderson said that anyone seeking information about the Leitchfield Animal Shelter may now contact the shelter directly by phone at 270-230-8839.

*The City Council approved a $3,277 grant request from the Leitchfield/Grayson County Airport Board contingent on grant contributions from other entities to go toward a project to improve the safety of the Leitchfield/Grayson County Airport runway.

The Airport Board will request the same amount from the Grayson County Fiscal Court this Friday, Aug. 19.

*The City Council granted approval for Thomason to execute a lease/purchase agreement with Municipal Equipment Inc. for the purchase of a knuckleboom truck.

The 2016 truck will be on a $75,000 lease for the first year the city rents it, a $56,447 lease the second year, and available for purchase for one dollar at the end of the third year, according to Leitchfield Public Works Director Sheila Puckett.

According to Puckett, $75,000 was budgeted for the current fiscal year for a knuckleboom truck.

Additionally, the City Council granted approval for Thomason to execute a lease agreement with Erb Equipment for a bulldozer rental.

The first-year lease for the bulldozer will be $19,675.57, and, Puckett said, the city budgeted $20,000 for the current fiscal year for this purpose.

*The City Council’s smoking ordinance was returned after being reviewed with changes recommended by the Kentucky Center for Smoke-free Policy.

After some discussion, the City Council decided to move forward with its original ordinance but to also include some recommendations by the Kentucky Center for Smoke-free Policy.

*The City Council entered into executive session to discuss the sale of property.

Upon returning to open session, the City Council voted to declare 125 acres of undeveloped land on the south side of Highway 54—which was originally purchased by the city for commercial use—surplus property to be offered for sale by sealed bids.

The City Council also voted to advertise for sealed bids for the purchase of the property.

*Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center CEO Wayne Meriwether said grant funding is available for the construction of a permanent farmer’s market structure in Leitchfield.

Meriwether said Whitney Carman, Grayson County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources, is currently in the process of gathering plans for a possible permanent farmers market structure.

*City Tourism Director Ilsa Johnson said Leitchfield Aquatic Center is now open only on Saturdays and Sundays through Labor Day weekend.

On Labor Day itself (Monday, Sept. 5), Leitchfield Aquatic Center will be open, as well, according to Johnson.

By Matt Lasley

Reach Matt Lasley at 270-259-9622, ext. 2015.

Reach Matt Lasley at 270-259-9622, ext. 2015.

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