Motorists drive on Cincinnati-Dayton Road between West Chester Road and Interstate 75, a 1-mile stretch of road where improvements are planned to accommodate existing and projected traffic, reduce roadway congestion and improve motorist safety. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Photo: Nick Graham
Photo: Nick Graham

Catholic church opposes lighting project in Olde West Chester

Decorative lights ‘like slapping lipstick on a pig,’ St. John’s employee says.

The Butler County engineer’s office will be widening Cincinnati-Dayton Road from West Chester Road to Cresthaven Avenue to four lanes, adding sidewalks, a bike path, and now likely gaslight-type street lights. The project is estimated at $3.7 million.

An annual $69 cost to Duke Energy for the electricity and maintenance of the lights is going to be spread evenly among the 78 properties in the district.

Several property owners spoke in favor of the lighting district during a recent public hearing, but one — St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church — opposed the project.

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The antique-looking lights are “like slapping lipstick on a pig” in an area that is not quaint or charming, Joan Seibenick, the church’s business manager wrote in a letter.

Seibenick, who did not attend the public hearing, had a letter she wrote read by Kirt Robb, the church’s facilities manager.

“The expense of these lights is a redundant cost to our parishioners,” she wrote. “Every dollar from our budget comes from contributions out of the pockets of our parishioners. We are morally obligated to use this money in a way that is right and just for our members. Spending money that is not a necessary item does not meet these moral obligations.”

In his own comments, Robb said the church was not told about the $69 cost but was told “thousands of dollars” would be expected.

When contacted by the Journal-News, Seibenick said the amount of the payment isn’t the main point, but said the church will go along with whatever the majority of the property owners decide.

Olde West Chester business owner Bill Lendl said the cost is well worth it for safety reasons.

He said the streetlights will have a “traffic calming” effect on the road, which he claims is prone to accidents.

“There are ways to engineer roadways to actually feel like you should reduce your speed…,” he said. “There is going to be, hopefully, a distinctive archway, because when you enter a new area it gets your attention, this is a new place, what should you do, you should slow down hopefully.”

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Fiscal Officer Bruce Jones fully supports the new lights and said Olde West Chester is a “diamond in the rough” that will be much improved with the engineer’s road-widening project and the addition of street lights.

“I think the (St. John) parishioners will realize some benefit from a safety standpoint given the traffic-calming effect of the street lights,” Jones said.

He offered to foot the church’s bill out of his own pocket.

“The gentleman commented that the cost was offensive to their Catholic values, which I understand is a mere $68.80. It’s not a matter of cost, the dollar amount, I’m sure it’s a matter of principle… When that bill comes around, St. John’s is welcome to send it to fiscal officer Bruce Jones, I’d be happy to pay it,” he said.

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