Fiscal Court supports highway safety project

Published 12:10 pm Friday, January 19, 2024

By Fiona Morgan

The Fiscal Court passed a motion to send a letter of support to government agencies and elected officials in support of a safety project for Highway 52 at their meeting on Jan. 9.

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In 2020, the state conducted a study on how to improve safety on HWY 52, which runs from Richmond to the southeast side of Danville. An improvement project is closer to happening, but still needs to make a state budget cycle. Magistrates explained that there have been many car wrecks on that narrow, winding road over the years.

However, there’s another possible road project in that area that could happen soon. The City of Danville has been wanting a connector road, or bypass, on the east side of Danville. The road would mainly be for trucks passing through to more easily get from HWY 150 to East Lexington Ave.

The General Assembly is currently in a budget session. Magistrate Jason Cullen said he believes that the HWY 52 project should be given priority since it’s such a safety hazard.

“The City of Danville is kind of pushing to have Highway 52 moved down in priority and their connector road moved up,” Cullen said. “The connector is a convenience some would say; I don’t really think it’s a convenience, I think it’ll be a hindrance to downtown, but 52 is a safety issue that should have been addressed years ago.”

Some magistrates spoke against the connector road, saying it could be a way for visitors to bypass Danville, not see what the town has to offer, or not spend money in town.

“It is more appropriately called a bypass rather than a connector because economic development bypasses communities [with a bypass],” Magistrate Tom Ellis said. “It’s the experience of so many Kentucky communities that thought that a bypass was a good idea, and it’s been a travesty in terms of economic development.”

Cullen said one idea for the bypass is for it to start on East Lexington Ave by the Danville water plant, have it go through a farm across the street, then through Henson Park, by the neighborhoods on East Main Street, to the area by Gose Pike.

“I understand that the city feels that this project is something that needs to happen, but not to take away from the safety that we need on 52,” Cullen said.

The connector road would cut through the new Luca Mariano Distillery development at the William Crowe farm. Luca Mariano Distillery owner Francesco Viola was in attendance, and spoke about not wanting the road to go through his property.

“We really do not want the connector anywhere on our property; it’s going to disrupt everything that we’ve planned for the last 10 years,” Viola said.

He explained that several years ago when trying to get the zone changed on the William Crowe farm, the Danville city commission would not pass the zone change unless Viola agreed to have a right of way through the property. But he said he did not originally want to do that. However, that right of way agreement is set to expire this year.

Viola has plans for 13 rickhouses, a village with stores and a hotel, restaurants, an amphitheater and more for the property. He said having a major road go through there would ruin the project, and would rather have the road go further east of his property.

Viola agreed that HWY 52 is a safety problem. His property, which is on HWY 52, has seen several accidents. Viola said cars have hit the stone fence along their fields.

Magistrates agreed that the distillery will be a huge economic driver for Danville.

“Luca Mariano is just the icing on the cake, the priority is 52, making sure 52 is widened, straightened, and safe,” Cullen said. “I’ve already reached out to our state representative and our senator and others to make sure that 52 stays at the top.”

In other business, the court:

• Appointed Willie Baker to the Planning and Zoning Board of Adjustment.

• Appointed Rita Bloom to the Library Board, to fill a vacancy left by the departure of Alethea Bruzek. Bloom is moving from the private board to the board of trustees. Her term will expire June 30, 2026.

• Judge Executive Trille Bottom handed certificates of recognition to county employees celebrating milestone years of service. The court recognized Angie Muncy for five years of service; Janice Spears for 20 years; Becky Webb for 20 years; Chris Stratton for 15 years; Bill Brown for 10 years; Magistrates Jason Cullen, Jamey Gay and Tom Ellis for five years; and Attorney Chris Herron for five years.

• Approved the county clerk’s office 2024 budget and maximum salary order. Salary caps are not to meet or exceed $804,200 throughout the year 2024.

This covers all full-time, part-time and overtime wages, vacation time, sick time, health insurance, comp time, Social Security, retirement and health insurance. The full budget is available for public viewing at the courthouse.

• Passed a resolution to name the bridge over the Dix River on Highway 52 the James Herring Bridge. The court had previously approved the bridge naming, but had not made a formal resolution for it, until now.