Prior crashes prompt fountain safety dialogue, controversy

Paul Stevenson, the driver who crashed into the bear fountain and Village Café & Catering, is looking to file an insurance claim against the Village of Geneseo as a result of the fountain accident. Stevenson wants to file this claim because he believes that the fountain is a road hazard due to its location. (Jenna Harbus/Staff Photographer)

The operator of the vehicle that crashed into the bear fountain and Village Café & Catering in November 2016, Paul Stevenson, hopes to file an insurance claim against the Village of Geneseo as a result of the accident.

In the insurance claim, Stevenson will cite failure to comply with state guidelines for obstructions in the road and the safety hazard that the fountain causes due to its location. The Village of Geneseo has received a notice of claim from the driver’s insurer, according to Village Mayor Richard Hatheway. 

“It’s not a claim, it’s just his rationale for it,” Hatheway said. “It’s his decision that the village is at fault.” 

The initial claim was submitted to the insurance company on Feb. 14, according to Hatheway. The insurance company will make the final decision on approving the validity of Stevenson’s claim. 

Depending on the initial response from the insurance company, Stevenson can then decide on whether or not he wants to move forward with the claim and file a suit against the village. Stevenson’s old insurance company will cover the damage to his vehicle, according to the Hatheway; Hatheway said, however, that they’re in a defensive position at this point. 

This is coming around a time where the fountain is undergoing a restoration process, which is expected to be completed this summer, according to Hatheway. One of the focuses of the restoration processes is accident prevention to avoid situations like this one as well as previous collisions. 

Geneseo’s Department of Public Works has been working to adjust methods of lighting to lessen the fountain’s presence as a traffic hazard and to allow incoming traffic to divert from the path of the fountain, according to Village Board Trustee Mary Rutigliano. 

“A few years ago, the street lighting situation consisted of street lamps that came down and over and lit the street with yellow light, so it was less jarring and your eyes could adjust better,” Rutigliano said. “Lighting the street from up above definitely gave you some more visibility, and so when they changed to the traditional street lamps—that being like a white-blue light and lighting across as opposed to down—it definitely changed the way that people interact with the infrastructure on the street.”

The village has also been considering adding such fixtures as fire hydrants around the fountain to prevent damage to the fountain in case of future car accidents after the restoration, according to Hatheway. 

“The fountain is going to be much more visible. And yes, we have talked a little bit about additional lighting surrounding the sidewalk,” Hatheway said.

Additional discussions have mentioned lighting around the sidewalks for the purpose of considering pedestrian safety, according to Hatheway. The village and the community are anticipating a celebration upon the completion of the fountain’s restoration. 

“We’re anxious to have the fountain back; hopefully this summer,” Hatheway said. “We’re hoping to have it when it’s nicer.”