A recommendation to reverse the direction of parking on Howard Avenue to avoid vehicle collisions was approved Monday by Wauseon City Council.
The unanimous vote was made following a lengthy discussion between the council and a small contingent of Howard Avenue residents over what they consider a hazardous parking edict on the street.
Led by resident Dr. Conrado Jensen, the group spent about half of the council’s 50-minute session addressing the problems associated with the west side-only parking rule on Howard Avenue. They complained that vehicles exiting driveways on the east side of the street were causing collisions with cars parked on the west side.
Jensen told council members that his car, which was parked on the street, was struck by another car with enough force to push his vehicle onto a nearby sidewalk. He said because the street is narrow, and because children play on the sidewalks, he wants the city to determine whether there should be parking at all on the street.
“I encourage you to look at this in a very thorough manner,” he said.
The issue has caused enough concern that the Wauseon Police Department sent a parking survey to Howard Avenue residents in December.
A Howard Avenue resident who declined to give his name told council members parking was permitted only on the east side of the street for decades until the city reversed parking to the west side several years ago. He said the decision was made without warning or City Council deliberation.
He said because eight driveways line the east side of the street, as opposed to three driveways on the west side, cars parked along the west side have a greater chance of being struck by those exiting driveways on the east side.
The resident said the change to west-side parking was made abruptly after former Mayor Doug Shaw received a single complaint from Jensen about parking on the street. The resident said he spoke directly to Shaw at the time, and was informed the city Street Committee agreed with the move.
James Gype said he has lived on Howard Avenue for 67 years, and problems only surfaced after the previous city administration reversed the parking direction. He said to his knowledge two accidents have resulted from the change.
“It’s still hard to believe that we moved the parking, without anybody’s knowledge, to the other side of the street when you’ve got eight residents on the east side of the street that have to back out on Howard Avenue,” he said. “And with cars parked on the west side of the street, it makes it difficult for them to back out. Why in the world did we change something that was never broken to start with?”
Mayor Kathy Huner told the group she doesn’t know why former city administrators made the decision. She said there is no record that a meeting of the Safety and Code Committee was held at the time to discuss the matter.
Howard Avenue resident Judy Grime said she has two vehicles parked in her driveway, and “there’s no way we can get out without having trouble backing up.”
Prior to approval of the recommendation, Street Committee member Shane Chamberlin said a change back to east side parking is common sense. “When you have cars parked on the side opposite of where most of the driveways are, the chances of accidents increase,” he added.
He said the committee’s recommendation to reverse the parking “is an opportunity for a wrong to be corrected.” The matter will undergo further review.
In other business, Tree Commission member Rick Frey reported that area tree activist Walt Lange has been nominated as Booster of the Year.
Frey also said the commission wants to plant five trees at the base of the sledding hill in Homecoming Park. Following concerns raised at a Feb. 14 Park Board meeting about the safety of planting trees there, Public Works Superintendent Dave Murry asked the commission to identify specifically where the trees would be placed.
Frey also reported that a list has been compiled of city trees to be removed or trimmed, and verified May 3 and Lakeside, Ohio, as the date and location of the state’s annual Tree City Awards ceremony.
Park Board member Scott Stiriz said Murry confirmed that Public Works has budgeted $50,000 to continue a paving project at Dorothy B. Biddle Park. The department also has budgeted for a second pavilion in the park, to be constructed at the north end.
At the board’s Feb. 14 meeting, Wauseon Rotary Club member Tom McWatters III discussed the organization’s intent to complete a 31-acre project at Homecoming Park. It will include a 3.1-mile, six-foot-wide cross country course, a nature preservation area, and an exercise station.
McWatters told the Park Board the project will be done in stages, and turned over to the city upon completion.
In department reports:
• Assistant Police Chief Bill McConnell said although attendance was low at the department’s recent “Coffee With A Cop” morning event he considers it a success due to the one-on-one conversations held with citizens. He said the department will consider holding future sessions in the evening or on weekends to make them more accessible.
• Public Service Director Dennis Richardson said design revisions for a new community pool have been forwarded to the Astro Pool Company of Mansfield, Ohio, and to the project’s architect, Duket Architects of Toledo. The revisions were made after the city received bids for the project significantly higher in cost than anticipated.
Richardson said a bid packet for renovating the city’s original pool house will be ready soon for review.
He said the city has been approached by Miller-Valentine Group of Cincinnati, the developer of Wauseon Senior Village, with a proposal to construct an addition north of the present location. The developer will apply for federal funding assistance.
The City Council also approved:
• The suspension of three readings and emergency passage of the following resolutions: authorizing the mayor to enter an agreement with the Maumee Valley Planning Organization for land use planning services; supporting proposed state bicycle routes by the Ohio Department of Transportation and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation officials. Both resolutions take effect immediately.
• The first reading of a resolution authorizing the mayor to enter an agreement with Fulton County Commissioners for sanitary sewer services.
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.