After two weeks in the Far East, you'd think the first thing Mayor Sue Murray might want to see upon her return would be her own bed.
Yet when she arrived back in Greencastle following a recent trade mission led by Indiana Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman's office, the mayor had something more concrete in mind.
"I want you to know," Greencastle/Putnam County Development Center Director Bill Dory told Redevelopment Commission members Wednesday evening, "that the first thing the mayor did when she got back from Japan was to have her husband drive her down Percy Julian Drive."
Smooth, wide, concrete-covered Percy Julian Drive.
When the mayor left for China and Japan, the road was not quite finished. Grass seed hadn't been sown and straw hadn't been strewn.
"The stripes are down, the grass is coming in, and everybody's glad it's finished and it's a nice road," Mayor Murray acknowledged.
The majority of the public feedback has been good, the mayor said, noting that residents along the east side of the street had been concerned about their properties being left in disarray from the construction work but ended up pleased with the outcome.
"They're very happy with the clean-up," the mayor said, noting a few minor items may remain on the contractor's punch list but other than that, the project is essentially finished.
She was also happy with the decision to open the roadway before the striping went down because officials originally feared the contractor, Frank Feutz Co., would not have its striping equipment available until much later.
It tuned out that the roadway was opened in time for Greencastle's homecoming, albeit without all the necessary lane striping.
"It would have been a disaster to leave it closed," Mayor Murray said, "if everyone could see that it looked done."
The project also gave authorities a chance to witness the positives and negatives of the temporary Greencastle High School parking lot access onto Washington Street, just west of Percy Julian Drive.
The temporary access to that lot now has been closed again.
City Police Chief Tom Sutherlin witnessed some of the action firsthand while acting as a temporary crossing guard at the nearby intersection when Percy Julian reopened., Mayor Murray said.
The chief told her that mornings were not a problem as student vehicles eastbound on Washington Street could easily turn right into the lot without progressing down to Percy Julian Drive.
However, after school was a different story. Vehicles trying to get out through the northern access of the lot to go either east or west on Washington Street were stymied by traffic coming from the west (from the lot near the tennis courts or the parking area near the office) or turning off Percy Julian to go west.
Students said it helped getting in during the morning but it was a bottleneck getting out after school.
"The student drivers who talked to Tom were just as happy to have it closed," Mayor Murray noted. "So that's where we are now."
Bruce Stinebrickner, a Greencastle School Board member who is an ex-officio member of the Redevelopment Commission, asked if the school wanted to put it back in, could it do so?
"They could do that," Murray said.
At present, however, there does not appear to be any plans to do so.