City weighing which way to go

January 31, 2013
Strawberry Alley had been a one-way street between South Main Street and the Washington police station, but it is now open to two-way traffic. - Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Motorists who travel side streets in downtown Washington should note that a portion of Strawberry Alley is again a two-way street.

One-way signs along the portion of Strawberry Alley from Main Street to the police station were removed last week by city police Chief Robert Lemons. The chief said the change in the traffic pattern was done to make transportation of prisoners easier for his officers.

“I checked into it and was told we may not have properly changed it (the alley) to one way in the first place,” Lemons said.

The mayor and council, however, are in a state of confusion, because no one seems to have been consulted about the most recent change, and no one is certain whether such a change needed to first be approved by ordinance.

According to Councilman Matt Staniszewski, it was Mayor Brenda Davis who gave Lemons approval for the change, and she did so without consulting council.

“The mayor’s definitely overstepping her boundaries,” said Staniszewski, who said he’d prefer that portion of the alley remain one way for safety reasons.

Davis denies she approved the move. Instead, she said she learned of it from Lemons, who took the signs down after talking with Councilman Ken Westcott. She also questioned whether the changing of the alley to one way was done legally by ordinance.

Westcott said the alley was made one way in 2006 or 2007, while he was serving as mayor, and “I recall we did do it by ordinance.”

Westcott explained that the one-way traffic was enacted when the city still had a garage behind the municipal building. But the garage, which he said in some instances blocked the vision of drivers, was torn down last year.

“I don’t know where it stands now,” Westcott said. “I can only assume the chief did his due diligence to check before taking down the signs.”

Councilman Joe Manning said he was surprised by the whole thing, but it’s something council needs to address at its agenda meeting Monday night.

Linda Metz has been with the Observer-Reporter since 2000, covering Washington County courts and politics, as well as the city of Washington. She previously was employed by the Tribune Review. She is a graduate of Point Park College, now a university, in Pittsburgh.

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