CORBIN — After a couple weeks of Kentucky Street having its center line adjusted, some parking spaces removed from the right side of the street while new ones were designated on the left side, the Corbin City Commission on Friday morning made a move to undo what had been done.
About 30 people from First Christian Church attended the meeting to show their support for returning their allowed parking in front of the church which sits at the corner of Kentucky Street and First Street.
Mayor Suzie Razmus explained that public safety was a top priority when she was elected to office and the speed people travel down Kentucky Street was an issue she wanted to work to improve.
Razmus said she and City Manager Marlon Sams worked together to create a plan to slow down that traffic while also adding parking spaces on the left side of Kentucky Street, where the downtown district is between Gordon and Fourth streets.
"That's where the buzz of activity is," Razmus said, noting there was a Downtown Master Plan that the Corbin City Commission adopted in February 2018, prior to Razmus or City Commissioner Brandon Shepherd being elected into office, that had no parking on the right side of Kentucky Street. That plan was the work of several years of studying ways to improve the downtown streetscapes design and included ways to calm traffic, reduce speeding and improve parking on Main Street.
Sams explained at the beginning of forming the plan, there were thoughts to put parking on both sides of Kentucky Street to add an additional 50 parking spaces to downtown Corbin. However the state highway department, according to Sams, recommended they only add parking to the left side due to safety concerns of people exiting their vehicles on to the street if parking is allowed on the right side of the street as well.
Razmus said the Downtown Master Plan is a $7-10 million project that will take time to complete, so in the short term she wanted to take action.
"I felt with the additional traffic downtown, with the additional foot traffic that is happening downtown, it was important to take public safety in hand," she said of why the changes were made to Kentucky Street. "I did not consider that the right side of Kentucky Street was used as much as it was by First Christian Church. I apologize.
"That's why we went forward with this, it was with the greater good of the entire community in mind," Razmus added.
Four members of First Christian Church spoke about the changes and the need to undo them as it causes issues for the members who may have mobility issues, those in the community who need access to help, and it makes it difficult for the church members to carry out the many projects they do to help the community.
Juanita Dudley, a member of the church since 1964, asked for her church to not be left out of the equation when trying to remedy traffic concerns.
"You're closing us off from the work we love to do," she said. "We're not the biggest church in town, but we have a very big heart and it beats for every person in this community."
City Commissioner Trent Knuckles said he was shocked when he drove down Kentucky Street and found the lines had been moved. He questioned why a request to draw up an ordinance was on the agenda for Friday's meeting to retroactively approve the removal of the parking spaces when the action had already been done.
Knuckles said that if he came to work and found he was not allowed to park in front of his building without any warning, "I'd be madder than hell," he said, while apologizing to the people in attendance who found out they had lost parking in front of their buildings in that manner.
"All we were ever told was we were going to mark some parking places on the left hand side of Kentucky [Street], so people knew they could park there," he said of what the city commissioners were told.
"I don't think it's right, I don't think it was done right," Knuckles said. "I think it's disrespectful just to do this to people and not even go ask them if they're like okay with it because it affects their businesses and their churches and I think we ought to just return it to the way it as. We initiated this and we can fix it. We've done the wrong thing so now we need to do the right thing and just reverse it and leave it alone. I've had literally no body in this town ever tell me they had a problem with Kentucky Avenue, it's like one of the best roads we've got. It moves traffic out, it's open, it's nice."
He continued by saying that if the changes are calming traffic down, it's because the center line now goes in different directions and probably confuses people.
"That's not a good way to calm traffic down, that's a stupid way to calm traffic down," he said.
Sams said he worked with the traffic engineer at Kentucky Transportation Cabinet in District 11 and the traffic engineer said on street parking provides a buffer between pedestrians and vehicles, it improves speed limit compliance and additionally designated parking is more desirable — so that's why some of the changes occurred.
"But the end result is not more desirable than what we had, it's worse," Knuckles said to Sams.
Razmus said it was an attempt to be proactive to reduce the traffic speed downtown.
Knuckles said in the future, "if we're going to mess around with anymore parking, especially in our downtown or anywhere in Corbin, maybe we ought to come to the commission and get permission to do so before we just do it, does that make sense?"
Knuckles made a motion to return Kentucky Street to the way it was before all the changes.
"It can't be done over night, we'll have to pay them again for it to be done," Sams said.
"It shouldn't have been done in the first place," Knuckles said in response, with cheers and agreements from those in attendance as the motion was passed unanimously.