The main item of discussion at the recent Huntington City Council meeting was the newly installed stop signs in the town. Councilman Bob Mills opened the discussion by stating the town has tried yield signs and they don't work. He said the reason for installing the stop signs is to slow down the speeders.
"I know the stop signs are inconvenient unless you obey the law. With the exception of Main Street, the speed limit in Huntington is 25 miles per hour. I have received many complaints about the speeding in town and this is the reason for the stop signs" said Mills.
Sgt. Tom Harrison of the Emery County Sheriff's Office stated, "I have taken a general consensus of the officers and they say the speed in Huntington is slowing down. If a person is obeying the 25 mph speed limit, it is not inconvenient to stop. What is a child's life worth, a few seconds? Everyone should adjust to the new signs by leaving a few seconds early. At present we are enforcing the signage three ways. We are issuing verbal and written warnings, and also issuing citations for speeding. We will enforce whatever signage there is, that is our job," said Harrison.
Mayor Jackie Wilson said Councilman Mills has studied the traffic routes and the speeding cars in Huntington. This study was completed to determine the placement of new stop signs. The city's attorney was contacted and advised the city not to remove the signs now that they have been installed. He said that if an accident was to happen now at an intersection where a sign was, and now has been removed, the city may be liable for damages.
City resident Danny Johnson stated, "I'm not a politician. I'm not a lawyer. I am a farmer who is concerned about what this council is doing in the city of Huntington."
Johnson said the reasons the city has given for the installation of the stop signs were one child has been hit and killed and one child has been hit and injured recently. He said that these incidents are tragic and he hopes incidents like this will never happen again, but these two incidents do not constitute a pattern. He said accidents sometimes happen and cannot be legislated away.
"An elementary school has been in Huntington for 89 years and the junior high has been here for 30 years. Two children in 89 years does not constitute a safety crisis," stated Johnson. He added that UDOT and federal government statistics show the opposite results for stop signs than what Huntington City is trying to accomplish with the stop signs.
Johnson said children in Huntington are continually playing in the streets, and the parents have the primary responsibility of the safety of their children. He concluded by saying, "The only real way to slow the speeders is to increase law enforcement."
Marie Johnson addressed the council with her concerns. "These signs were installed without the advice of qualified people. Law enforcement people are trained to enforce laws, not advise cities on the placement of traffic signals. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices is a national standard developed by the Federal Highway Administration in cooperation with the states. The Utah Department of Transportation has adopted the MUTCD guidelines to be followed in the determination of the placement of traffic control devices," said Marie Johnson.
She said she believes the installation of the new stop signs in Huntington is a clear violation of Utah State laws. She has been in contact with the UDOT Region Four public involvement officer Myron Lee, and the Region Four Traffic Engineer Troy Torgersen. Lee told her his concern was for the local officials that have just assumed a large amount of liability by violating MUTCD guidelines. Lee added the bigger problem for the city is lack of law enforcement than speeding.
Torgersen told Marie Johnson that the State of Utah has adopted MUTCD, and therefore all public roads are subject to its requirements. Based on arbitrarily placed devices, the local officials may be putting themselves and others at risk. He added studies have shown when stop signs are placed close together, speed increases.
According to Marie Johnson, the MUTCD specifies stop signs should not be used for speed control. She added that one criteria for a multi-way stop should be that the intersection is a crash problem as indicated by five or more reported crashes have occurred in a 12 month period. Also the intersection must have a volume of 300 vehicles per hour. There are many other criteria for the use of stop signs and multi-way stop signs that are required to be met. In her opinion, none of the criteria were met with the installation of the stop signs in Huntington.
Marie Johnson concluded with, "Each one of you was elected and sworn into office with the oath to support all the state laws. I am sure each of you wish to operate within those laws."
The council decided to do research into what has been presented and will report and decide on further action at the council meeting in May. Mayor Wilson announced Huntington City council is considering contracting with the Emery County Sheriff's Office for dedicated patrol to Huntington. This would mean for certain days and for a number of hours, an officer would be in Huntington patrolling the streets. It would also mean that if another call came in, the officer is contracted to Huntington and would stay in Huntington. The next meeting will be held May 16 at 6:30 p.m.