Commonwealth Journal

January 10, 2013

Construction site at square creates some confusion for out-of-town driver

By BILL MARDIS, Editor Emeritus
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —  

News just seems to follow us around.
A Commonwealth Journal reporter-photographer (we wear two hats during hard times) and Mark Vaught, member of the Pulaski County Board of Elections, were standing in the diamond-shaped island on the east side of disturbed Fountain Square discussing the upcoming special election in the 52nd House District when, without warning, a car is coming the wrong way around the downtown centerpiece.
Of course, standing in a little square in the middle of heavy traffic should have raised our insurance premiums, nonetheless a car headed straight at us from the blind side called for quick action. Vaught and this reporter couldn’t figure out which way was up.
Obviously from out of town, the driver was going clockwise instead of counterclockwise. The driver was sober as a judge and knew something wasn’t right. 
So did a deputy sheriff driving the right way around the square at the same moment. Just as the confused motorist rolled down the driver’s side window to inquire directions of Vaught and this reporter, the accommodating deputy turned on his blue lights.
The deputy was doing his job. He had to stop the driver. The offending car almost got hit by another car in front of the lawman.
But from a wag’s point of view, it was plain social injustice. Nobody could be that unlucky. The driver was simply trying to find a way through town. Come to think of it, a motorist needed a Ph.D to figure the way around the square before the ground was scraped.
They used to say the best way to teach a young person to drive was to take them to Fountain Square. When they could negotiate the square without denting a fender they were ready for a driver’s license.
Vaught and I didn’t follow the unlucky driver. We decided to let the drama play out. The deputy seemed completely in charge and stopped the car at the intersection with Maple Street in front of the Commonwealth Journal building.
We don’t know the outcome. Here’s hoping he didn’t write a ticket. It wasn’t the out-of-town driver’s fault.
Really! If we were from out of town and coming around Fountain Square, it might happen to us. Looking at the inside of the circle, one might think orange barrels are the county “bird” of Pulaski County.
That’s not to say the contractor renovating the fountain area is not doing his best. The driving lanes are being kept open as promised and traffic movement for the most part is unhindered.
However, if you haven’t been downtown lately, you’re in for a shock. The county-owned piece of property known as Fountain Square at the moment looks like a bad haircut. It is scraped to bare bones.
The Fountain Square Beautification Project has had lots of publicity. Everyone knows what’s going on. The $1 million project will create a magnificent fountain and amenities that will make Pulaski countians proud. It is scheduled to be complete by midsummer.
It isn’t fair to associate a stone sober, but misdirected driver with what used to be a Saturday night joyride. But the incident revived an uncontrolled reflection.
Back during days when the Somerset Police Department had a scant number of officers; back before cellular phones, video games and flat-screen televisions, a fun time downtown on Saturday night was driving the wrong way around Fountain Square.
Cowboys and cowgirls loved to do it. Often, they’d blow their car’s horn for attention. Before a cop could make a stop, a second inverted circle was made and the offender, waving to amused spectators, was long gone.