03/14/11 — Mount Olive eyes changes to several four-way stops

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Mount Olive eyes changes to several four-way stops

By Steve Herring
Published in News on March 14, 2011 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- A town committee has recommended that all but two of the town's four-way stops be eliminated and has suggested requiring that any future four-ways must meet state Department of Transportation criteria, which none of them do now.

The committee also suggested that the town board adopt a town-wide speed limit of 25 miles per hour thereby eliminating a hodge-podge of speed limits.

Town commissioners took no action on the recommendations during their Monday session last week, but did schedule a public hearing for April 4 on the stop sign issue. No time was set.

The speed limit changes could be made only on town streets and not ones maintained by the state including Breazeale Avenue, Main Street and Church Street. Any changes on those streets would require state approval.

Committee spokesman Jimmy Williams said the town should leave the four-way stops at West John and North Chestnut streets because of the nearby Bank of America and at West James and North Chestnut streets because of Steele Memorial Library even though they do not meet DOT criteria.

"The police department felt that while the two corners did not meet the criteria, they have a lot of traffic," Williams said.

The other four-way stops would be eliminated -- West Station Street at North Chestnut Street, West College Street at North Martin Street and West College Street at North Southerland Street.

Williams said that stipulating that future four-way stops meet DOT criteria takes the emotion out of the decision.

"I think the committee and police department are unanimous that any future four-ways meet the criteria of the DOT," Williams said.

Commissioner Kenny Talton questioned whether a public hearing would be required to make such changes.

Town Attorney Carroll Turner reminded commissioners they had held a public hearing before and that they might want to consider another.

"Personally, I like the committee's recommendation," he said.

Mayor Ray McDonald Sr. said "out of respect" for the people who had worked for the four-way stops that the town should hold a public hearing.

Talton said he "disagreed somewhat," with the DOT, but that some situations call for "different measures."

"The (four-way) stop signs have proven to slow traffic down and make it safer even though DOT doesn't want them used to slow traffic," he said.

Some questions were raised about whether eliminating the signs would allow the town to return the intersections to their original configuration or possibly even change the orientation of the signs.

Williams said that the committee's original charge had been the four-way stops. It might have exceeded that charge, but the committee members decided to look at the issue of speed limits as well, he said.

The idea was to simplify speed limits that now include 15, 20, 25 and 35 miles per hour, he said.

The police department was asked to look at areas where speed limit signs might be needed.

An additional 53 location were identified, he said.

"There is nothing there to say what the speed limit is," Williams said.

The town should also consider purchasing a sign that could be mounted to a speed limit sign and that would flash out how fast a vehicle is traveling so drivers would know if they were speeding, Williams said.

Town Manager Charles Brown said the signs cost about $2,200 each. The town has money available to purchase one, he said.

In other business, no one spoke during brief public hearing on a change to the town's zoning ordinances.

The board unanimously approved the change would increase the maximum height of buildings in town from 35 to 80 feet.

Brown said the increase would make the town more attractive to potential development.

In what was a formality, commissioners adopted a resolution designating McDonald as the town's official representative when it comes to making recommendations to the state ABC Commission on ABC permit applications.

Brown said the town does not receive many ABC permit applications.

Phyllis Hill, director of the WISH program, asked the board to once again fund $5,000 for the program that provides health services to county school children.

WISH has health centers in several schools including three in the Mount Olive area -- Mount Olive and Brogden Middle schools and Carver Elementary School.

McDonald agreed that it is a worthwhile project, but that the town is facing a tight budget year. He said he could not promise that the town would be able to provide the funding, but would do what it could.