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Town’s support of road project irks aldermen

Some members of the Waynesville board of aldermen are questioning whether Mayor Henry Foy acted in bounds when he wrote a letter of support to the Department of Transportation for the Plott Creek Road project.

The Waynesville Town Board voted unanimously last April to have town officials meet with DOT to explore alternatives to a plan calling for a middle turn lane in several sections of Plott Creek Road from Hazelwood Elementary School to the outskirts of downtown Hazelwood. The vote was in direct response to complaints of residents who live, work and go to church along the road.

That meeting never happened, however. Instead, Foy wrote a letter to the DOT six weeks later that called the project “very desirable.” The letter also minimized the outpouring of criticism the DOT got from residents during a public meeting about the road.

“We understand, as we’re sure you do, that a majority of the comments received have been from the very limited perspective of persons being directly impacted by the proposed improvements,” Foy’s letter stated. “As usual, the great many people that will benefit have not commented on the project.”

The letter concluded by stating that the town “looks forward to the proposed improvements.”

The letter, while written on town letterhead, does not reflect the views of the town board as a whole, however.

“I would rather him speak for himself and not for all of us,” Alderman Kenneth Moore said of the mayor. “It looks like he would ask us if we think it was a desirable project or wasn’t a desirable project.”

Alderman Gary Caldwell said the rest of the board never saw the letter. Caldwell said some of the project has merit, namely the sidewalk, but he does not know if a middle-turn lane is necessary. Caldwell and Moore both question why the meeting the board asked town staff to have with DOT officials to discuss alternative ideas never occurred.

Foy, meanwhile, supports the project.

“We are going to need that with increased traffic going and coming,” Foy said. “If this was going to stay a little two-lane country road, that would be one thing.

Plott Creek is a narrow road with no shoulders. Several high-dollar residential developments along the road have made it a thoroughfare for construction trucks that could strike someone walking or riding a bike on the narrow shoulder or drift across the center line. But the developments also mean the road will be have additional traffic in coming years.

Foy said if the town misses the chance now, it might not come back around again.

“In order to get the state to do road work like this, it usually has to go through a long rigmarole,” Foy said. “I just don’t want us to lose it.”

In addition to middle turn lanes along several sections of the road between Hazelwood Elementary School and Sulphur Springs Road, the plan calls for wider lanes, wider shoulders, curb and gutter, a sidewalk, and a crosswalk and pedestrian island at the school.

The crosswalk and island were requests from the town in Foy’s letter.

“It’s worth it to get pedestrian facilities into that neighborhood,” Fred Baker, the town public works director, said of the project.

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