Mayor tells father of Junction teen killed at 127 city is ‘working on it’
JUNCTION CITY — With his voice cracking as he read from a prepared letter, Steve Knight addressed the members of the Junction City Council during Thursday’s meeting, imploring the city to file the permit request to get lights placed at the U.S. 127/Shelby Street intersection.
“Let’s make sure that the next pedestrian that walks across that intersection has the advantage that a few lights will give them to survive the trip,” Knight said, reading from the letter.
Knight’s son, John, was 19 when he was hit and killed by a car as he attempted to cross the light on July 14, 2016, with two friends. According to police reports, there are conflicting statements about who had the light — the driver claimed she had the light, while the two teens with Knight claimed they had the cross light.
“Let’s all work together to do everything we can to lessen the chances someone else is killed at that intersection,” Steve Knight read.
Knight was joined by a large crowd of those who loved his son: friends and family, including John’s mother, Cheryl Preston; and other community members concerned about the intersection, such as Tom Ellis and Boyle County Magistrate John Caywood.
Mayor Jim Douglas assured Knight that the council was taking the situation seriously. Douglas said he learned earlier on Thursday that Kentucky Utilities can also file the permit, which he thinks will happen more quickly than if the city files it.
“I will be meeting them in the coming days,” Douglas said. “We’re doing all we can do. I don’t claim to be the smartest man in the world and when we going out looking for these things, we don’t always find the right answer. I guarantee you and I assure that we are working on it.”
City Attorney Lynne Dean explained that the city now had a copy of the permits needed.
Douglas said the permits will have to go through KU anyway, as they will be the entity installing the lights on behalf of the city.
“It’s going to take some time and it’s going to take some cost,” said Council member Hershel Fletcher, a former employee of KU. “I can tell you that because I used to do that work.”
Knight said he and others would be happy to help fundraise to help cover the cost of the lights.
Douglas told him it was “the city’s issue” and the city could cover it.
Council member Pete Kendrick addressed the crowd and said he wanted to make sure that they knew the city had been working on the lighting issue.
“I don’t think there’s been any institutional, intentional dodging of the light. Sometimes, business, city business, government business, moves glacially … maybe there was some miscommunication about where we stood and who we were waiting on,” Kendrick said.
Voice cracking, he said, “I liked John. He was a good boy. I’m sorry it happened.”
Kendrick volunteered to stay in contact with Knight to keep him abreast of the situation, and that maybe they could get support from the community, specifically some of the larger businesses that are “served by the road.”
“Maybe we can get this done right and expeditiously as possible,” Kendrick said.
Community member Michael Thrasher commented that he thought the state road department needed to examine the striping of the crosswalks, which he called “faded.” He also said the timing of the light needed to be adjusted.
“When you press the walk light, I would say, out of you sitting there on the council, there’s only two of you that can make it across that intersection before the hand turns red again. I used to walk across there all the time, last summer, and I can only make it halfway across that intersection,” Thrasher said.
After meeting, Knight said he felt that this was a good starting point, but was concerned that going through KU might not expedite the process.
“I’ve never been told that that’s an option — maybe it is. Hopefully that will speed things up,” Knight said. “I’m cautiously optimistic.”
The council also heard:
• from community member Jim Harris, who presented a lighting alternative to the council for the crosswalk at the U.S. 127/Shelby Street intersection. From International Safety Evaluators and Rescue Trainers, ISERT, the plans feature LED lights, flashing pedestrian signs, lights along the crosswalk for pedestrians, infrared sensors and more. The plans would cost about $3,000.
• Concerns from Council member Sonya Kitchen about needing the community center painted;
• A clarification from Fletcher that the initial call to KU regarding the light was a request for the light at KY 300, which is not covered by Kentucky Utilities; and
• From Alane Mills about the FIGHT substance abuse resource fair, from 2-6 p.m. at Danville Church of God.
Follow Kendra Peek on Twitter, @knpeek.