By erome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
The Streets and Sidewalks Committee of the Havre City Council denied a request by a group of parents to put up signs on their street urging drivers to slow down after the city's public works director questioned whether the signs would be effective.
The committee voted 4-0 Monday to table the request to put up "Slow - Children at Play" signs on Spruce Drive near Havre High School.
In a letter sent to committee chair Allen "Woody" Woodwick earlier this month, 10 parents who live on Spruce Drive requested that signs be placed at both entrances of Spruce Drive, where it meets 16th Street and 12th Avenue.
The letter said Havre High students use Spruce Drive as a shortcut from 16th Street to 12th Avenue, particularly when they go to lunch. The area has at least eight children under the age of 12 who play on the street, it said.
Spruce Drive is a blind curve, residents say, and because it's on a hill, drivers often accelerate to go up it.
The committee initially seemed favorable to the request.
"I really think it seems like a pretty good idea," Woodwick said at the beginning of the meeting.
"That area is busy, like you said," said committee member Tom Farnham. "Sixteenth Street gets heavy traffic."
But after comments from public works director Dave Peterson, the committee's views shifted.
Peterson told the committee that putting up the signs doesn't change the speed limit, and that signs are only effective if people pay attention to them.
"You're talking teenagers? Is a teenager going to look at that sign? Probably 95 times out of 100, no," Peterson said.
"Well, if it saves one accident, I think it's well worth it," committee member Jack Brandon said.
Peterson said if the committee puts up the signs, they can expect many more requests from other neighborhoods.
"But then you could get requests to put them on every block in town," he said. "Just be prepared to answer this request for a lot of different neighborhoods."
The signs cost between $70 and $80, he said, and now exist near many city parks.
"I feel Dave has a very good point," said Farnham, who suggested the committee request more patrolling by city police in the area to try to keep vehicle speeds down.
Peterson also said the Havre Police Department has money available to buy an electronic sign this summer that tells drivers how fast they're going compared with the speed limit. The sign would be portable, so it could be moved to neighborhoods around town where speeding is a problem.
"That will get people's attention better," Peterson said.
The committee voted unanimously to table the request and talk to Havre Police Chief Mike Barthel about the possibility of getting an extra patrol in the area.
Barthel could not be reached for comment today.
Spruce Drive resident Margaret Miller, who has two daughters ages 6 and 8, said today that if the city doesn't approve the signs, it should at least enforce the speed limit on the street.
"I think if people know they're going to get ticketed and they start getting stung up there, it's going to make a difference," Miller said.
City Council member Pam Hillery, who lives on Spruce Drive and signed the letter, said today her goal is to get drivers to slow down on the street, and that she favors whatever is the best way to do that, whether it means adding a police patrol or extending the 15 mph speed limit around Elks Park further east on 16th Street.
She said she does not think cost should be a reason not to put up the signs, and she does not think the argument that other neighborhoods will ask for their own signs should be a factor.
"I don't care if they end up having them all over town. There's worse things that can happen," she said.
Woodwick said today he supports putting up the signs, and noted that the parents' request was tabled, not rejected.
If parents are not happy with the measures the city takes, he said, the committee will revisit the issue.
Woodwick said he hopes to talk to Barthel today.