The recent installation of three speed humps on West Main Street between Juniper Lane and the four way stop at North Mountain Street has become a controversial issue for the Smithville Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
The city board, earlier this year at the request of several residents in the area, voted to install the speed humps as a pilot project, but since they were put down most of the aldermen say they have heard nothing but complaints from the public, who often travel the street going to and from the downtown business district.
Based on those complaints, the city board decided to re-visit the issue Monday night during it's regular board meeting.
Having learned that the matter was on the agenda for discussion, many of the residents in the neighborhood where the speed humps are located, showed up at the meeting to voice their support for the speed humps and to request that they remain in place.
No one opposed to the speed humps attended the meeting to express their views.
Residents in the neighborhood say the speed humps have been very effective in slowing traffic on a street where speeding has been a problem and the posted speed limit is 15 miles per hour.
Bert Driver, who lives on West Main Street, presented a petition in April signed by twenty three residents requesting the speed humps. During Monday night's meeting, Driver re-stated the reasons he says the speed humps are needed..\" The residences of historical West Main Street are gravely concerned about our safety. More importantly, we are concerned about the safety of our children and grandchildren. Motorists continually speed down our street with blatant disregard to the speed limits and caution signs (Children at Play). Many years ago, government officials recognized that West Main Street was not designed to accommodate such high rates of speed; therefore, West Broad Street was developed and continues to be the most direct and safest thoroughfare for motorists. We feel that speed humps need to be installed near the intersection of Juniper Lane and at the top of the hill near the intersection of Shady Lane. Although enforcement of speed limits by police departments is an effective means of reducing speeds, limited resources do not allow such enforcement on a regular and permanent basis. Please note that we are not in favor of flashing lights because they are ineffective and can be detrimental to the historical value of West Main Street. In brief, traffic calming measures need to be implemented now in order to protect all citizens, especially our children\".
Driver says if the speed humps are removed, the problem would only worsen, especially with the new Wal-Mart store coming soon on Broad Street. \"West Main has become a collector street because of the city's steady growth over the past ten years. As a result, many motorists use West Main as a cut through (a by pass) around the red lights on highway 56 and highway 70. This will only become more intense when the new red lights are installed on Broad Street in front of the new Wal-Mart Super Center. In brief, please leave the speed humps on West Main Street and continue to protect our right to safety and to protect the lives of our children.\"
Alderman Steve White says he is also concerned about speeding on city streets but says the problem is not just on West Main Street and that if requests start coming in for speed humps all over town, the city could be creating another problem.
In fact, residents on South College Street and Smith Road, also present for Monday night's meeting, asked that speed humps be put down on their streets.
White says he has further received requests or inquiries from residents on several other city streets about the city possibly installing speed humps in their neighborhoods.
The Mayor and Aldermen plan to schedule an informal workshop with the Police Chief to discuss the speeding problem city wide and to explore possible alternative solutions to the problem.
Alderman and Police Commissioner Aaron Meeks pointed out that the police department has issued more citations for speeding within the last couple of months, since Chief Gus Clemente took over as head of the department.
Meanwhile, in other business, Mayor Taft Hendrixson re-appointed Alderman Cecil Burger as the city's representative on the Smithville Electric System Board. Anthony Hagan was appointed as a citizen member, succeeding Vester Parsley.
David Terrell was reappointed and John Daniels and George Davis were appointed to the Airport Committee and Glen Nichols, Jr. was named to the Civil Rights Committee.
All the appointments were approved by the aldermen.
In other business, the city board denied a request by Smithville Police Chief Gus Clemente to adopt a vehicle take-home policy for officers of the police department.
Alderman Aaron Meeks made a motion that the resolution be adopted, but it died for the lack of a second.
Under the proposal, each officer, who is already assigned a patrol car to drive while on duty, would have been permitted to take that cruiser home after work.
Some members of the city council had reservations about that proposal since most of the city police officers reside outside the city.
Under the proposed policy, only officers living within a 25 mile radius of the corporate city limits of the City of Smithville would have been allowed to drive the police vehicles home. All other officers would have been forced to park the vehicles at the police department headquarters.
Chief Clemente says the goals of this policy would have been to promote the security of the citizens of Smithville by greater visibility and presence of vehicles on the streets and highways; provide quicker response time to certain types of calls and therefore increase the opportunity to apprehend criminals; reduce the yearly mileage on each vehicle, therefore increasing vehicle life; reduce maintenance cost on each vehicle in the fleet; provide quicker response of off-duty personnel when called back to duty because of an emergency; provide increased incentive and morale of officers participating in the program; and maintain vehicles in top condition through preventive maintenance and personalized assignment.
Members of the council agree that the policy could have provided for quicker response time by some officers in the event of an emergency, but others argue that it would have added to the city's fuel cost and potentially increased liability.
Some also questioned how that there could be greater visibility and presence of patrol cars on city streets, when most of the city patrol cars would be outside the city, when driven home by officers who live outside the city.