West Jeff speed control issue has ups and downs

Mayor Scott Hockenbery’s decision to install speed humps on Fellows Avenue continues to be a hot topic in West Jefferson. On May 19, council discussed an ordinance that, if passed, would require council involvement in such decisions.

Submitted by council’s Public Service Committee, the proposed ordinance would require the mayor, public safety director or any council member to make a recommendation for the installation of speed bumps or humps to council’s public service committee for further study. That study would include: documentation of complaints received by residents; a survey of the area, reporting the number of traffic tickets or citations issued; and information gleaned from radar devices and other means of tracking speed and/or other traffic violations.

Once the study and survey are done, the public service committee could decide to bring a recommendation to council.

President Darlene Steele asked council to suspend council rules and pass the ordinance on first reading. Doing so would allow the ordinance to become law within 30 days.

Steele’s request was rejected by a council vote of 4-3. Doug Eakins, Sheila Nelson, Ron Garver and Randy Otis voted against suspending the rules. Therefore, a second reading is required before further council action can take place. The soonest a second reading can be held is council’s next meeting on June 2.

Ron Parsons, the village’s attorney, cautioned council that the proposed ordinance, in his opinion, is more administrative than legislative over village government and could be overturned in the courts if challenged.

Prior to introduction of the ordinance, residents, council members and the mayor discussed the necessity of the speed humps.

Resident Krista Bebb spoke in favor of them, saying they help with traffic control on a primary street that passes by a public park, Garrette Park.

Bebb’s husband, Dan, said other residents who travel through the area say the speed humps are good for the safety of the children of the village.

“These are all good points, but then should we have them on every street in the town?” asked Council Vice President Ron Garver.

Council member Sheila Nelson said she has received positive and negative feedback from residents. Nelson said she is interested to see what happens when emergency vehicles travel over the humps.

Reading from a two-page speech, Hockenbery defended the need for speed humps and his right to approve their installation.

“Over the weekend, I provided council with my reasons for taking action and the reasons I disagree with their attempts to ban or limit the ability to use these types of safety control devices in the future,” Hockenbery said.

“The reasons I took action and had speed humps installed on Fellows is because this area is heavily used by pedestrian traffic and much more so throughout the summer. This area is used for the Streetfest, Ox Roast and Christmas in the Park. It is used by the WJYAA for practices and some games.”

He said the suggestion to station police officers in such areas is not practical because the police department is responsible for traffic control throughout the village.

Hockenbery cited sections of the Ohio Revised Code and West Jefferson Village Charter that, he said, give him the authority to act as safety director without council approval for such projects.

In other business:

• Council tabled a resolution to approve recommendations from the Tax Incentive Review Board regarding Target Corporation’s compliance with the Ohio Enterprise Zone Agreement.

• Council approved the annexation of four small parcels of land into West Jefferson’s industrial park.

• A first reading was held on the village’s sanitation contract with Waste Management Inc. The current contract expires on July 31. West Jefferson can extend the contract through July 31, 2009. Waste Management’s extension offer includes a 66-cent per month increase over the current cost of $15.35 per household per month.

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