News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 5, 2012

City Council unhappy with ISU alterations to public streets

University says it thought proper protocol was followed for approval

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State University came under fire at Thursday night’s Terre Haute City Council “sunshine” meeting for making changes to public streets without first getting city approval.

The university has placed flashing stop signs at the corner of Seventh and Chestnut streets. It also installed a “high-efficiency vehicle” parking space sign near the Scott College of Business on a public street and added a new pedestrian crosswalk on Cherry Street – all without getting city approval first.

The high-efficiency vehicle parking space has been removed and the university is now back in compliance with city code in that respect, said Chuck Ennis, city engineer. However, the new, unauthorized pedestrian crosswalk on Cherry Street near the Scott College of Business and the illuminated stop signs at Seventh and Chestnut remain, city officials said.

While he said he favors the illuminated stop signs over regular stop signs at that intersection, Councilman Norm Loudermilk, D-3rd, said ISU needs to follow the rules like anyone else.

“It’s simply unacceptable,” Loudermilk said, adding he’d like someone from ISU at next Thursday night’s regular meeting. “Everyone else has to go through the hoops…There’s no reason they shouldn’t have to go through the hoops also.”

Councilman Todd Nation, D-4th, also expressed concern.

“I just add [the illuminated stop signs on Seventh Street] to the list of actions ISU is taking with or without the help of the engineering department that I understand are things that we’re supposed to be involved in,” Nation said.

Diann McKee, vice president for business affairs, finance and university treasurer, said there was no intention to side-step city procedures. The university believed it had taken the proper steps through City Hall to get the approvals needed, she said.

“If we need to touch base with the City Council, we will certainly do that,” said McKee, reached late Thursday night.

The city’s engineering department is seeking to place regulation stop signs on North Seventh at Chestnut Street, an intersection that once included full traffic signals. However, since Chestnut Street in that area has now been vacated, there is no need for more than just stop signs for traffic on North Seventh, Ennis said. However, the number of pedestrians crossing the street there is high, leading city officials to consider other options to provide for safe crossings, he said.

More than 300 people cross North Seventh Street at Chestnut Street in a single afternoon, Ennis said. ISU officials are also concerned about the safety of students and others crossing there and elsewhere, he said.

Meanwhile, Councilman John Mullican, D-6th, asked whether a ladder fire truck could gain access to the vacated portion of Chestnut Street between North Seventh and North Eighth streets. That is being examined by Terre Haute Fire Chief Jeff Fisher, Ennis said.

When the City Council vacated Chestnut between Seventh and Eighth, they specified that ISU must leave enough room for a large fire truck to enter the vacated area, which is now a pedestrian area south of the School of Education (formerly the Lab School). A fire truck would need access to that area in the event of a fire at one or more university buildings along the former Chestnut Street.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.