07/12/11 — Gate cost delays Park Avenue roundabout opening ... again

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Gate cost delays Park Avenue roundabout opening ... again

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on July 12, 2011 1:46 PM

It was 54 years ago when Paul Staps decided Herman Park's portion of Park Avenue should be closed for good.

A mere child at the time, Staps remembers how his friend, Milford Edwards Jones Jr., was fatally struck by a car going through the park, in what witnesses called an "unavoidable" collision on May 31, 1957.

And so Staps pleaded with the mayor and City Council at its July 5 meeting to keep the bollards up and the street closed, although the council's decision had been made back on May 2.

Staps' story made it clear that further safety steps need to be implemented at that portion of the street, a concern the council has been considering for months now.

Although the vote is three months old, the bollards are still up and, despite one council member's disgust at how long the discussion has taken, they will remain up, as the council will, once again, wait until its next council meeting to open up Park Avenue through Herman Park.

Members still couldn't agree on the best way to implement further safety measures to protect children from traffic along the portion of Park Avenue that passes through Herman Park during the council meeting, but decided to remove the bollards that prevent automobile traffic from passing through the roundabout.

The council approved lowering the road's speed limit from 25 to 10 m.p.h. through the park, but couldn't decide what other safety precautions to employ for the road.

Interim Parks and Recreation Director Sherry Archibald was told Wednesday morning to hold off on taking the bollards down until the council determined how to proceed. The decision to wait continues a three-month old discussion concerning the roundabout, which was illegally closed by city officials more than a year ago.

After a public hearing in which seven citizens spoke against the closing of the street on April 18, the council voted 5-0 to deny a petition to close the street on May 2 and asked for suggested safety measures from the Recreation Advisory Commission.

Ms. Archibald first presented the commission's safety recommendations, which included reinstalling park gates that were taken down earlier this year, at the May 16 meeting. Council added another option involving closing one entrance into the roundabout to prevent through traffic and requested price estimates for the different options, which she presented at the June 6 meeting, although an estimate for the one-entrance roundabout option was not known at the time.

Mrs. Archibald provided that estimate in the agenda packet for the July 5 meeting, roughly estimating it would cost $6,300 to close off and grass over an entrance to the roundabout. The closing would require another public hearing on the matter.

The council collectively asked during its work session last week about installing a gate for the roundabout so it could be closed during peak use times, such as weekends or when the Kiwanis train is running.

Mrs. Archibald reminded the council that the estimate for a Victorian-style gate, as would be required since Herman Park is located in Goldsboro's historic district, had been presented at the June 20 meeting and that it ranged from $6,000 to $8,000.

That estimate led to grumbling among the councilmen and to District 5 Councilman Chuck Allen asking about a cheaper option similar to the gates that had existed before January when they were replaced with metal bollards.

"We're getting closer to a solution," Mayor Al King said during the discussions that followed.

But not close enough for District 1 Councilman Michael Headen who, after discussions began to circle again, exclaimed that Christmas will be here again before they finally decide on what to do with Park Avenue.

Other council members voiced their concurrence with Headen.

The council decided to remove the bollards in its fourth meeting since agreeing to open the road with a 5-0 vote on May 2, but won't act until after its next meeting.

Mrs. Archibald began preparing to bring the bollards down last Wednesday morning, noting that the removal would take roughly three days and that she expected Park Avenue to once again be open by early this week, but received a mid-morning phone call from Interim City Manager Tasha Logan indicating that the council wanted to have gates up before the bollards are removed. The council discussed, but did not approve, an option at its meeting to close the newly installed gates to the roundabout at certain times of peak use to dissuade traffic.

"They want it to happen simultaneously," Mrs. Archibald said. "I'm getting gate designs together and requesting the (Recreation and Parks Advisory Commission) have a meeting as to when the gates should be closed. The plan is to have all of this information together by the next council meeting."