Flipped back: Council wants 24/7 stop sign
by Rick DeClue · News · July 19, 2013

At the July 8 city council meeting, West Branch Mayor Mark Worrell introduced the first reading of Ordinance 715 amending “Stop or Yield Required” as the “infamous stop sign issue.”

He was referring to the proposal for a permanent stop sign to replace the current flip sign at the intersection of Main and Oliphant streets. The item was put on the agenda at the request of the council’s newest member, Mary Beth Stevenson.

Stevenson was not satisfied with the council’s 2-2 vote in January that left the intersection’s traffic controls as they are.

She was immediately supported by members who helped provide the 3-1 margin approving this vote.

Council Member Colton Miller said it was an injustice that the stop sign was not passed the first time, and that he was all for it.

Member Jordan Ellyson said she did not have closure with the earlier January vote on the sign. She cited early and after-school activities when the current flip-sign was not up as a particular concern. She also said the school district was in favor of a permanent stop sign.

Much of the discussion had been heard by council before: the lack of crossings on Main Street, relatively few students using the Oliphant crossing, the preference to have students crossing at Oliphant versus walking down Poplar Street without sidewalks, inconsistency of drivers recognizing the flip-sign, and so on.

The dissenting council member, Dick Stoolman, cited the fact that the current sign had worked for many years. He also pointed out that the city would need to make improvements to sidewalks, curbs and accessibility ramps in order to make the intersection an effective school crossing.

These potential costs prompted the council to reconsider whether the city should concern itself with crossing guards, or leave that to the school. The 2014 budget contains $1,640 to cover half of the cost of a crossing guard at the intersection before and after school. It assumes the school district would cover the other half.

Worrell questioned if the city spent, for example, $10,000 on sidewalk improvements, whether it made sense to have to pay for the crossing guard. “And where does it end? Do we have to pay for other crossing guards?” he asked.

Additional comments regarding signage and traffic flow prompted Worrell to urge the council to take the time before the required second and third readings to review all the issues and reinvestigate whether the permanent stop sign is the best solution.

“If we’re going to do this, we should do it right. We should be committed, and then move on to the next crossing issue,” he said. He added that there were currently no designated school crossings between Downey Street and the high school.

“Nobody here is against safety,” concluded the mayor.

Reached after the meeting, West Branch School Board President Mike Owen agreed that everyone is interested in the safety of students walking to school.

During the school board’s discussion of this issue earlier this year, Owen thought there was a consensus in favor of the permanent stop sign. The board did not actually vote on the matter, because they felt it is a city decision.

Aware of the history of the city council’s considerations, Owen added that if the sign is not approved, “it will keep coming up every so often. There will continue to be calls.”

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