BOTKINS – A passionate and sometimes contentious discussion about the state Route 274 and County Road 25A intersection was the main focus of Tuesday’s Botkins Village Council meeting.
Four Botkins residents attended the meeting to express concerns about the intersection, which was the site of a fatal crash on Oct. 10, and to ask for solutions to prevent future accidents.
“I stand here feeling very fortunate that our daughter Casey was saved by God’s grace and timing but still cannot suppress the thought of how much worse it could have been,” said Jenny Guisinger, whose 22-year-old daughter was involved in the fatal crash when another driver failed to stop at the intersection. “As a mom, I want to save someone else the turmoil that we experienced.”
Shortly after 11 a.m. Oct. 12, Myron Parke Jr., 69, of Sidney, was traveling westbound on state Route 274 and failed to stop at a stop sign. One of his passengers, Angela M. Fitzgerald, 52, of Sidney, was killed when Parke’s vehicle traveled into the intersection and was hit by Casey Guisinger, who had the right of way.
Mike Kohler, who retired after serving more than 30 years as a paramedic, said the state Route 274 and County Road 25A intersection is well known by local residents to be dangerous and more crashes will occur if something isn’t done to address safety concerns.
“It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when the next wreck happens,” he said. “And when the tones would drop and say 274 and 25A, the Inn Between intersection hazard, their heart would skip a beat because you knew how damn bad it was going to be.
“Everybody I know in town here – I talked to 20, 30 people this last week – they avoid that intersection like the plague.”
Mayor Steve Woodruff agreed that the intersection has safety issues and said he avoids it when returning home from work in the afternoon. However, he and Village Council members said they want to avoid hasty decisions that could lead to unintended consequences.
“If you tell us the solution, we’re willing to do it,” Council member Craig Brown said. “I just don’t think anybody knows the solution, Mike.
“If we change it and somebody gets killed next week because it was changed, then we would feel responsible.”
Council President Nick Greve said the intersection has been a common topic of discussion among Botkins officials since he became a council member 14 years ago. The village has consulted with the Ohio Department of Transportation and had multiple studies done, but there’s no simple solution.
“Everything that we would propose would have to go through a safety study with the county, with the state and would have to get approval for us to do it,” Greve said.
Botkins Police Chief Tom Glass presented statistics to the Village Council about the intersection. He reported there have been 70 crashes there since 1994, including 36 injury accidents and 34 non-injury accidents. The Oct. 10 accident was the first fatal crash at the intersection in the past 25 years, Glass said.
“In the state’s eyes, the number of accidents there aren’t that terrible,” Brown said.
Although no decisions were made following an almost hour discussion, residents and village officials offered numerous possible changes that could make the intersection safer such as added signage, rumble strips, a four-way stop, traffic lights or a roundabout.
“I think there needs to be something done,” Botkins resident Steve Hemmert said. “I don’t know what it is.”
Hemmert and Kohler both suggested a four-way stop, but Village Council members expressed concerns about such a drastic change. They said drivers on County Road 25A who aren’t accustomed to stopping at the intersection might cause a crash if a four-way stop is added.
“My concern is if you put a four-way stop there that somebody’s going to get killed that went through there every day all their life because they’re not going to stop, somebody is going to assume they’re going to stop and pull out,” Brown said.
Other possible solutions also could lead to potential problems. Randy Keller, who lives at the corner of state Route 274 and County Road 25A, expressed concerns about rumble strips causing excessive noise.
Kohler suggested Botkins Police, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office or Ohio State Highway Patrol could park near the intersection or even leave an unoccupied cruiser nearby.
Glass said he fears hurting business at the Inn Between Tavern, which could preclude parking a cruiser there, but Botkins Police will crack down hard in the area and issue more tickets instead of warnings.
The Inn Between’s position near the intersection also could prevent there from being enough room for a roundabout.
“Roundabouts aren’t designed or semis or farm machinery,” Glass said. “Roundabouts are good for cars; anything bigger than that you’ve got a problem.”
WHIO’s Steve Baker did suggest Botkins officials could visit the roundabout at Dorset Road and Mckaig Avenue in Troy. The roundabout, which recently opened near Troy Christian High School, doesn’t take up much space but still allows buses, semis and firetrucks to pass through, he said.
“I think this body has a series of very important decisions to make,” Greve said. “I’m not saying we shouldn’t make a change out there. I’m saying I want to be careful about the changes we make.”
Woodruff said residents and village officials all want the same thing – for the 274 and 25A intersection to be safer – but any solution must be well though out.
“We want to make things better, but if we make a change we want to make it better and we want to make it right,” the mayor said. “We just don’t know how to do that yet.”
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