Shannon Dethlefs, mother of Amber Rooks talks about the roadside memorial for her daughter

Township to remove memorial to dead construction worker

>>>ROADSIDE MEMORIALS: A place to grieve or safety concern?

Amber Rooks died from injuries she sustained after a vehicle struck her and four other utility workers April 22, 2015, in a marked construction zone on Cox Road. Shortly after, a large memorial went up at the scene.

After the sentencing this past May of the driver who hit the workers, there were no immediate plans to remove the memorial, but officials were concerned it may be a distraction in a high-traffic area. Questions were raised if the memorial was in the public right of way or on private property.

The Butler County Engineer’s Office has determined the memorial is in the public right of way, according to Barb Wilson, West Chester Twp. spokeswoman, who added the memorial would be removed Friday.

“It is the township’s duty to remove unauthorized items from the public right of way,” Wilson said. “There is always a possibility of things in the public right of way creating a distraction to passing traffic.”

Wilson said she spoke with Shannon Dethlefs, the mother of the woman killed, and offered to keep the memorial at a township facility until the family could make plans to take possession of it.

The memorial — which includes a teddy bear dressed in a construction vest mounted to a cross made of pieces of reflective barricade — has become a sacred place for the family, according to Dethlefs. Especially for Rooks’ 9-year-old son, Dylan.

“It is the only place Dylan will go to. Not to his mother’s grave — to the memorial,” Dethlefs told the Journal-News in May.

On Tuesday, Dethlefs said she has contacted her attorney about getting an injunction to stop removal of the memorial. She said she is also looking into purchasing a small piece of the land so that the memorial can remain forever.

“I am trying to help Dylan and his well being,” Dethlefs said. “And they are trying to take it away.”

Wilson said officials have “great compassion” for the family, but they have to consistently apply the rules for a public right of way.

The high-traffic area is home to a number of new developments.

Christ Hospital is building an approximately 125,000-square-foot center at the growing Interstate 75 interchange with Ohio 129 and Liberty Way. The facility, which will include a freestanding emergency room and helicopter landing pad, will be located on about 17 acres off Cox Road.

Also, a developer is planning to bring two hotels to the corner of Cox Road and Liberty Way in a project with a total estimated cost of between $30 million and $34 million.

And nearly 100 acres on the northeast corner of Liberty Way and Cox Road will be developed into a massive mixed use project anchored by TriHealth’s new ambulatory care center.

Traffic in the area was expected to more than double from 15,000 vehicles per day to 40,000 with last fall’s opening of Liberty Center, according to the Butler County Engineer’s Office.

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