PLEASANT HILL — He greets travelers as they pass through the small town of Pleasant Hill, but the Ohio Department of Transportation has recommended the Old Soldier monument should be moved out of the intersection of State Routes 718 and 48.
ODOT conducted a safety study of the intersection, which was presented to Pleasant Hill council this summer.
The study found the intersection with the Old Soldier’s monument averaged 4.47 crashes per year . The study also stated that 14 crashes occurred at the intersection from 2010-2012. The study also found that the right of way is “very confined at this intersection, especially on the northeast corner.”
The monument has been in place at the intersection since the late 1880s as a dedication to all soldiers who fought in the Cival War.
The study cited the monument in the center of the intersection and driver inattention as the probable causes for the high number of incidents.
ODOT recommended to council to remove the monument from the center of the intersection. ODOT also stated, “If it is not feasible to move the monument, district should consider implementing all-way stop control.”
Pleasant Hill president pro-tem of council John Weaver Jr. said council was unaware that ODOT was conducting the safety survey of the village’s intersection until four days prior of its July council meeting when an ODOT representative presented the study to village Mayor Gary Johnston.
According to the village minutes of the council meeting held on July 14, “The mayor told council that ODOT has a safety fund that is used to correct traffic safety issues and (ODOT representative ) Ms. (Mary) Hoy told him that ODOT would pay at least ninety percent (90 percent) of the cost to move it. She told them that she might be able to get funding to help pay for preparing the site where the monument will be moved. After some discussion Mayor Johnston asked council if they wish for him to contact District Seven and tell them that the village is interested in moving the monument. The mayor continued that he would like to have a vote by council authorizing him to contact ODOT.”
Council was advised that the monument had to be moved due to safety concerns and passed an emergency resolution on July 14. Weaver said council passed the resolution to move the monument only to allow the village to pursue funds to move it if they are available through the state or other sources.
The following council members were present and voted “yes” to move the monument: Angela Willoughby, John Weaver, Kreg Hollenbacher, Vickie Kirk, Paul Laughman and Leonard Wirz.
Weaver said council, if it wishes, can always pass a resolution to reverse the decision to remove the memorial statue if funding is not available. Weaver said the village has no available funds to move the monument itself and would need state funding to have the monument moved.
“There are no specific places set for it to be moved,” Weaver said last week. “We are trying to see if there are possibilities that are viable and we are trying to work through the process now.”
Weaver said “a number of things have to fall in to place” in order for the monument to be moved, such as securing the funding to move it in the first place.
“There is no funding until next year so it’s not going to happen right away,” Weaver said. “All we voted to do is move it. That doesn’t mean that resolution could be repealed.”
Weaver said more than 35 people attended its last village meeting on Aug. 11 to share their opinions about the monument and council’s resolution.
“We listened to what people had to say at the meeting and there were some other suggestions on how it might be dealt with,” Weaver said. “We’ll continue to have discussions with ODOT. We are just going through the process now.”
Weaver said council plans on conducting a survey in regards to the monument much like it has done in the past with other village issues.
“Obviously, we are trying to do what is best for our community and what is best for the safety of the people passing through our community,” Weaver said.
Attempts to contact Mayor Gary Johnston were not returned.
PEOPLE AGAINST THE MONUMENT’S MOVE
Several Pleasant Hill residents have openly expressed their displeasure at the council’s decision, citing poor parking near the intersection as the real cause of hand full of accidents.
Tracy Coate McGuire said she and other residents are upset that council made the decision without any input from the village residents.
“There is great sentimental value to a lot of people with the monument. It’s been there for 119 years and its not the real cause of the issue,” McGuire said. “We just really feel like that it has been there so long and this study doesn’t really state that its the monument causing the few accidents — it’s the parking. What would Pleasant Hill be without the monument? That’s how people know who we are.”
The Old Solider Monument was dedicated to the Civil War veterans in the late 1880s. McGuire said the inscription, “Dedicated by the grateful people of Newton Township in memory of her fallen heroes who died in defense of the Union and who sleep unknown graves” gives her chills from the sentimental value the monument has to her and other residents.
“I just have really strong feelings about it. For one I have a great grand uncle whose name is on the monument,” McGuire said.
“My dad was in to history and really proud of the monument. I feel like the people of the town should have a say so what is done to it.”
McGuire said she and other residents would prefer a four-way stop at the intersection before moving the monument. McGuire also said safety concerns would plague the intersection if the monument was a removed.
“If the monument was moved, it would during the street in to a drag race strip because there would be nothing there for people to stop for,” McGuire said. “We aren’t against change, but somethings shouldn’t be changed. It’s been there for 119 years and its part of our history.”
McGuire said of the 14 accidents of the ODOT study, she believes most was caused by cars parking too close to the intersection to be able to see oncoming traffic coming from southbound State Route 48.
McGuire and others have started a Facebook page entitled “People Against Moving the Old Solider Monument in Pleasant Hill, Ohio” where feedback and comments are welcomed.
The group has also organized a rally at the intersection beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday.
The next village council meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 8 at 200 W. Walnut St., Pleasant Hill.