Leachville Council discusses highway safety issues

Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Tony Sullivan, Assistant Chief Engineer-Operations (left)with the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department and Representative Dave Wallace met with the Leachville City Council to discuss highway issues.

Leachville City Council April 20th meeting started with a lengthy discussion on highway issues regarding the intersection of Highway 18 and Highway 119.

Mayor Ralph Wells welcomed Rep. Dave Wallace and Tony Sullivan, assistant chief engineer-operations with the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department.

Rep. Wallace addressed the accidents that have occurred at the intersection.

"We know we need a solution and we appreciate Mr. Sullivan for being here," Rep. Wallace said. "We want to hear what you (Sullivan) have to say and we want to hear what the citizens have to say. There have been bad accidents at the interesection for many years and we have lost 10 or more people. We are hoping you (the Highway and Transportation Department) can work with us to to help stop accidents there."

Wallace said the city is open to suggestions and asked if a flashing warning sign might help with the problem.

John Jones, construction manager with API, talked about the traffic accidents he had seen at and near the construction sight.

"Since August of last year we have seen seven accidents reported and six minor accidents not reported," Jones said. "I've got 20 guys on the road working and they are in danger. We can't get people to slow down. Several occasions Leachville police officers have worked traffic and we appreciate it. We know they can't be out there all of the time. We put our signs up but it doesn't seem to help. We want to stop accidents and fatalities out there."

Jones said he is not sure if the accidents are due to the intersection or the construction sight, but it is a concern.

Rep. Wallace said he doubted any other intersection in Mississippi County has as many fatalities, and there were accidents at the site before construction began.

"We have started growing in that area and businesses are locating there," Mayor Wells said. "The Highway Department has always been good to help us. I don't think we need a stop light out there. We are asking for advice on anything we can do."

Sullivan said city limit signs need to be moved to mark where the new city limits are located.

"Drivers will then know they are in city limits," Sullivan said. "I don't know that it would have any bearing on it, but we need to let them know."

A sign about enforcing the speed limit (55 mph) can be added.

Chief of Police Steve Lancaster asked about a speed reduction until the construction work is completed.

"Typically, we do not reduce speed because of construction," Sullivan said.

He said it is negative to the highway transportation manual. He also said two way stops or overhead flashing beacon with yellow on one side and red on the other would not be recommended.

"People pull up to a two way flashing sign and stop, assume everyone has to stop and then take off again," Sullivan said.

He went on to say speed limits are set, after a study, of where 85 percent of the people are comfortable driving.

A study showed the average speed at the intersection is 58 miles per hour.

He said they have looked at the intresection since 2010, added signs on both sides, and stop ahead signs.

"We have tried to make sure we do everything we can to alert people to stop," Sullivan said. "I think we have done that. I don't think the accidents are happening because people are not stopping at the intersection."

He was asked about adding rumble strips to the center or shoulder.

"It could be done but it would be loud for the residents living there," Sullivan said.

Councilman Michael Webster asked about placing a portable trailer with a speed limit flashing sign.

"We have done those in work areas," Sullivan said. "We can get some up here."

Chief Lancaster said he would like to see a couple at each intersection.

Rep. Wallace asked what the city would be allowed to do on Highway 119.

"We (the Highway and Transportation Department) are responsible for it," Sullivan said. "You would not want to do anything that might cause an accident. We contol the right of way. It is our responsibility."

Sullivan did say they would try to get the solar powered speed limit signs to the area. He also said the intersection does not meet the requirements for a traffic light.

"I think our citizens grow complacent," Rep. Wallace said. "We forget how fast those cars are going on Highway 18."

"We are not perfect," Sullivan said. "We have sent three different guys up here to check it out so we could have fresh eyes. We can put up a portable sign for a short time. The police officers are welcome to enforce the law. The speed limit is 55 miles per hour and if drivers go 56 they can be stopped. We do need to get the city limit signs moved out there."

The highway department will provide the flashing speed signs at no cost to the city.

"I can tell you the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department are good stewards of the money we give them," Rep. Wallace said. "We have the 12th largest highway system and 44th or 45th in money."

Chief Lancaster gave the police department monthly report.

He then asked about amending the salary set for the new full time Officer Allan Lasater as set last month. Lancaster recommended raising the salary from $10 an hour to $11.91. The council voted unanimously in favor of the increase. All council members, Karen Wallace, Ethel Hetler, Tommy Stockton, Michael Webster, Lisa Baldridge and Teresa Johnson, were present.

In other business:

*Robert Ballard, city employee, asked about the purchase of rubber mulch for the park playground fall zones for the safety of the children. He said he had received quotes at 36 cents a pound for the blue mulch-type material from a Michigan company. The council voted unanimously to purchase the material for the park.

*Following a discussion, council voted to purchase doors from Jonesboro Overhead Door for the building that will house the new trash pick-up truck.

*Ballard told the council they have found two pieces of equipment stored in the building that have not been used in a long time, a chipper and a leaf vac. He asked about trading the equipment in or selling it to help purchase a new mowing tractor. Mayor Wells said the leaf vac was given to the city from Mississippi County through a grant purchase and he is not sure if they can sell it. Mayor Wells said he would check into the leaf vac but suggested the city keep the chipper. No action was taken.

*Council voted to give Chief Lancaster the authority to apply for a grant for new bullet proof vests for the police officers.

*Chief Lancaster announced they are actively seeking donations for a k-9 unit. He also informed the council that Leachville had been part of a large drug bust resulting in two felony arrests, one local and one from Paragould.

*The council discussed the problem of basketball goals on the streets. They asked the police department to talk to residents about moving them off the streets for the safety of the children and allowing room for emergency vehicles to get up and down the streets. Ruth Ann Keith, clerk, was asked to check with towns across the state on how the problem is handled.

*The council voted to finance the trash pick-up truck through First National Bank. Wells said they plan to start the trash-pick-up service with the crew they have and it will probably open up at least part time positions. He said they will need two on the truck and one driver. It should take 13 hours a week to pick up the trash and then there will be a trip to the county landfill.

*A meeting was set for 6 p.m. May 11 to work on the employee handbook.

*Mayor Wells read a letter from Congressman Rick Crawford thanking him for meeting with a represetnative from his office. Crawford wrote he would be there for the city if needed.

*Mayor Wells said he was glad to announce a doctor will be coming to Leachville a couple days a week and the office will be open with a nurse practioner all week.

*Mayor Wells gave a schedule of events for the upccoming centennial celebration on July 4 as Leachville celebrtes its 100th birthday. Events will begin on July 3 with vehicles "dragging main" and a Friday night sock hop dance at the BIC gymnasiumm in Leachville. There will be a gospel show at the Melody Theater on July 3. A centennial parade line-up will start at the BIC east Elementary school at 9 a.m. July 4. The parade will begin at 10 a.m. There will be an all day Leachville School Reunion at BIC East Elementary and Gymnasium with an evening program at the Melody Theater. City fireworks will be held at 9 p.m. July 5, and individual centennial recognition will be held at area churches.

*Councilman Webster said the Foundation will be sponsoring a clean-up from 8 a.m. until noon May 16 picking up litter along the streets and painting the fire hydrants. There will be 40 to 50 volunteers. If anyone wants to help they can let him know. The event is called Make Leachville Beautiful and will be held in conjunction with Keep Arkansas Beautiful.

*Marilyn Looney said she is pleased to have Susie Parker with the EOC in Leachville two days a week.

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