EAST LIVERPOOL - A plan to eliminate most traffic lights downtown and replace them with stop signs was met with opposition from a Fifth Street businessman and a resident at Monday night's City Council meeting.
Brian Kerr, owner of PC Doctor, addressed council with his concerns, saying he had obtained the electric bill for operating the traffic signals, learning the Sept. 13 bill was $47,268.24.
Of that amount, the light at the intersection of East Fourth and Market streets counted for just $85, he pointed out.
In checking with the city's insurance company, Kerr said, he learned the city has insurance to repair lights damaged by being struck by vehicles, which has caused some of the lights to be inoperable.
An attorney he contacted advised Kerr that not turning in an insurance claim for such damages is "knowingly jeopardizing public safety," and said the lights could have been fixed within six days after being damaged.
He urged council to "think of the business downtown," saying he sees no cost savings in eliminating the traffic lights.
Cadmus Street resident Robert Richmond agreed with Kerr, saying
pedestrians will be at risk, especially at Fifth and Market streets, saying, "You're not saving money if someone gets hurt crossing the street. They'll sue the city. You should reconsider some of these streets."
Estell said this issue had been discussed months ago by both council and the streets committee and that it was decided to wait until after street patching was complete for the year to actually begin the process of eliminating the lights.
Street committee Chairman Scott Barrett polled business owners, who supported removal of the lights, Estell said.
He said insurance claims have been made in the past for lights and a deductible was paid each time, pointing out that not one truck that has damaged a light has ever stopped so the city could make a claim against the trucking company involved.
"It's always been the city that's paid," he said.
Not only electricity and repair costs but the cost of bulbs were taken into consideration in making the decision, according to Estell, who said, "All the lights are older. The last time we bought bulbs, it was the last box the electric company was able to get. We would have to change to an LED system."
He assured Richmond there should be no difference crossing the street with stop signs in place than with lights, but said the matter has not been taken lightly, with both the police and fire chiefs brought into the discussion.
Councilman Sherrie Curtis said when she was street chairman years ago the issue was discussed "so it's nothing new," and said after watching traffic as a downtown business owner 21 years, believes traffic flows better and drivers tend to stop better for stop signs than for traffic lights.
Kerr also voiced his concern about a recent news article noting a leak at the former school administration building in East End had run up a $1,000 water bill. The city will soon become the owner of the building through a trade with the school district.
He pointed out the city is concerned about saving $85 per month on a traffic light when it will be paying $1,000 or more "on a building you don't know what you're going to do with."
Estell said, however, the city has been working with a potential tenant for the building, saying, "We have no intention of paying (excess) electric charges on that building."