Polk County commissioners reject their own plan for streetlights on dangerous road

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Polk County commissioners have rejected a plan they created to put streetlights on a dark and dangerous stretch of road in Lakeland.

Kalen Kirk, 17, lost his life crossing Clubhouse Road trying to get to his school bus stop. Other pedestrians have died while walking the dark corridor.

“There’s always going to be safety concerns,” Tony Kirk told WFLA. Kalen’s father has spent the past year fighting to make the road safer. “The time of day is changing now. It’s getting a little bit darker. The kids are still getting up at night, and it is still poorly lit.”

Polk County leaders came up with a plan to install 65 new lights. Two-thousand taxpayers living in the area would have footed the bill, each paying $17 per year for ten years, and then the amount would drop to a lower amount after that.

But after months of meetings and discussions, commissioners ultimately voted against the plan they created.

Commissioner Melony Bell told WFLA she supported the proposal, but a majority of residents she spoke with did not.

“That changed my mind,” Bell said after voting against the plan. “I have not heard from many people that wanted it. My emails have been mostly from people that don’t want it. Some of them wanted the lights, however, they didn’t want to pay for the lights and felt like there were other people using Clubhouse Road, so why should they have to pay for it. I got that, I understand that. I mean, I drive Clubhouse Road. Others said they already paid taxes and an impact fee, and did not feel they should pay anymore.”

Kirk said he believes commissioners tried their best to come up with a solution, but he is disappointed that residents were not surveyed to get a better consensus.

“The county commission made their decision not to enact the ordinance based off of a small percentage, which is not a true representation of everyone it would affect,” Kirk said.

The county is funding sidewalks and other intersection improvements along Clubhouse Road.

Bell said she planned to suggest putting lighting in the budget in the future.

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