Denton Mayor Chris Watts took several minutes during his “State of the City” address Thursday night to update residents on improvements the city and county are making to a dangerous stretch of Hickory Creek Road.

Three people died in two fatal wrecks in the past year, including last week’s crash that claimed the lives of teenage brothers Daniel and Diego Rivera. In April, a woman and her 2-year-old were rescued after their car left the road and crashed into the creek.

“Nobody wants to see this happening,” Watts said.

Another motorist stepped up to the microphone at the “State of the City” event to tell his story of a wreck on Hickory Creek Road.

Phillip Young said he wasn’t hurt and his car wasn’t damaged because he spun into some thick vines along the embankment instead of going into the creek, as others had.

“I didn’t see that first curve,” Young said. “I lost control.”

Again, passers-by helped, including one with a winch, Young said. He and others were able to pull his car from the vines even before police arrived.

Watts told the crowd of about 250 people that Denton County should be able to install guardrails the entire length of the road along the creek up to Country Club Road (FM1830).

The city offered to pay half the cost, Watts said, helping to get the guardrails up in about a week.

Next, the city will install reflective striping, “so people understand the contours of the road,” Watts said.

Currently, a yellow warning sign announces the S-curve and cautions motorists to slow to 20 mph. In about a month, the city will add a warning sign with flashing LED lights triggered by radar when a car is approaching.

Watts talks to residents

Mayor Chris Watts addresses residents during the "State of the City" event on Thursday evening in Denton.

The news elicited applause from the audience Thursday at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Denton Convention Center.

Long term, Watts said, the city and the county are working on a new design for the road that will straighten the route and include some bridges over the floodplain.

“We are working to identify funding for that stretch of road,” Watts said.

Thursday’s “State of the City” was the third time Denton has organized such an event. Staff from every city department lined the walls of a ballroom at the convention center, meeting with residents and answering their questions on everything from fire safety to mulch sales at the city landfill.

Watts’ speech touched on the city’s many capital improvement projects, improvements in the planning department, as well as efforts to address homelessness in Denton.

Residents came to the mic, too, to let city leaders know what was on their minds. One resident asked that the city’s transit system, which is operated by the Denton County Transportation Authority, do more to help people get to work and other places they need to go. Another resident asked whether something could be done to secure a building on South Elm Street that burned a year ago and has not been razed.

Engagement fair

Residents visit with staff members from various city departments during the "State of the City" event Thursday at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Denton Convention Center. Residents got the chance to meet staff members in less well-known departments, interact with city leaders and learn more about current projects.

Putting on goggles

Denton resident Mike Adams tries on Fatal Vision goggles, which impair the wearer’s vision to simulate a blood alcohol content level of 0.12 to 0.15. The activity was part of the engagement fair during the “State of the City” on Thursday at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Denton Convention Center.

Another resident asked about whether the police department is keeping up with Denton’s rapid growth. The city’s new police chief, Frank Dixon, came to the mic, too, and assured him that the department is re-evaluating how best to grow along with the city.

Watts encouraged residents who have smartphones to download the city’s app, Engage Denton. The app makes it easy to report potholes, streetlight outages and other issues that city crews need to address.

Watts said about a thousand residents have downloaded the app so far, sending about 2,300 requests, or about 300 to 400 per month, to the city staff.

10 Key Olympics

Denton resident Jan Johnson competes in the “10 Key Olympics” during the engagement fair at the “State of the City” event Thursday. The event gives residents a chance to meet staff members in less well-known departments, interact with council members and other city leaders and learn more about current projects.

Since it’s better to address issues when they are small and people first notice them, “we want to increase that,” Watts said, adding with a chuckle, “but the city staff might not want me to say that.”

Engage Denton is a free app available in both the Apple and Google Play stores. More information about the city’s capital improvement projects can be found at improvingdenton.com.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.

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