The Ladysmith Common Council voted unanimously Monday, June 28, to allow Ruby’s Pantry organizers to put out temporary no parking signs to improve traffic flow during their monthly food distribution events.
The first Ruby’s Pantry in the city on June 10 drew hundreds of participants and backed traffic for blocks as law enforcement officers were stationed near Lake Avenue to help direct traffic.
Organizers anticipated as many as 180 vehicles at its first event, but nearly 300 showed up at the event held outside the Worden Avenue Exchange and former creamery building southeast of the intersection of Worden Avenue and E. Third Street S.
“We would like to make a route through the city away from the downtown area,” said Site Coordinator Pam Warner.
The no parking signs would mark a route south W. Second Street, east on Lindoo Avenue, north on E. Sixth Street and west on Worden Avenue.
“That way it is out of the way. It is off Highway 8. We are using back residential areas,” Warner said.
Organizers also are in talks with the Knights of Columbus to help direct traffic.
“We would at least like to be able to at least get down Worden Avenue and probably E. Sixth Street with temporary no parking signs or a Ruby’s Pantry Lane, something like that,” Warner said.
Organizers would be responsible for posting the paper no parking signs ahead of the event. Signs would be removed afterward.
Police Chief Kevin Julien wanted to avoid similar blockages of Lake and Miner avenues as happened during the first Ruby’s Pantry.
“I didn’t witness it but I heard it was quite a traffic jam. They needed officers out there directing traffic,” Public Works Director Kurt Gorsegner said.
Ald. Marty Reynolds questioned how motorists will be directed to begin lining up along the proposed route. He asked that enough volunteers be stationed to direct traffic.
“They would have to start down by the [elementary] school,” he said. “I don’t want to bottleneck Worden Avenue between Second and Sixth streets.”
Ruby’s Pantry in Ladysmith is held the second Thursday of every month. Distribution of shares to guests runs from 4:30-6 p.m., or until shares run out. Patrons receive a food share in exchange for a $20 donation. There are no income or residency requirements. It is sponsored locally by Red Cedar Church, which holds Sunday worships at Worden Avenue Exchange.
Food shares consist of donated items that might be overstocks and nearing expiration. Instead of being disposed of in a landfill the items are donated to Ruby’s Pantry.
Ninety percent of the donation covers the cost of distributing the food from Ruby’s Pantry warehouses and toward their operating costs. The other 10 percent stays in the community in a benevolence fund that benefits Ladysmith and the surrounding area through programs like children’s food backpack programs or fire victim relief.
The route last month snaked through the downtown to Lake Avenue as many participants arrived via U.S. 8.
“I don’t anticipate this road getting full of cars parked long the edge because it is such a big route back around,” Warner said.
The signs will be put out around 2 p.m. and removed by about 6 p.m.
“There is a lot of traffic coming down Worden Avenue between 2 and 6, and maybe that is the wrong place to start,” Reynolds said.
Warner told the council the creamery parking lot can accommodate up to 180 vehicles.
“Then they would be back out Worden Avenue over by the creamery,” Warner said. “If we get the same number of cars, which I know we are not going to, I know we are going to be getting more cars. That is quite a few cars that can go on this side of Worden Avenue and then down Sixth Street and Lindoo and then up this way on Second Street.
Last month, organizers allowed only two shares per vehicle. This month there will be no limits.
“We are actually ordering in 550 shares this next time. The need is there. It has been shown the first time the need is there,” Warner said.
Ald. John Pohlman III asked if nearby church parking lots at Hope Lutheran and Our Lady of Sorrows could be used. He noted other Ruby’s Pantry sites use church sites.
“Maybe there is a way to utilize using those parking lots as people are backing up so the route isn’t going five miles through the city,” Pohlman said.
The creamery is a desirable facility for its loading docks and a forklift that is available for unloading trucks through the building’s owner, Steve Berg.
“We are very happy with how the event turned out the first time except for the traffic, which we didn’t anticipate,” Warner said.
The approval was granted with the condition the route operate safely. The council asked for a report on the matter so changes can be made to keep the event going.
“I don’t want to see it stop because of traffic,” Pohlman said.