Roadway issues brought before commissioners

January 5, 2019

La PORTE – County roads were the focus of the first La Porte County Board of Commissioners’ meeting of 2019.

“I am here to ask you to look into the lowering of the speed limit on Garden Street from 35 to 30 miles per hour,” La Porte resident Barb Hooper said during public comment period at Wednesday. “For those not familiar with Garden Street, one end of it attaches to Small Road, which has a speed limit of 30 mph, the other end is at Waverly, which is 20 mph.”

Hooper said the current speed limit is not working out.

“With Garden Street there are many hills; visibility is a big issue; we have walkers, bikers, joggers and more families with kids,” Hooper said.

Hooper gave the Commissioners paperwork pertaining to a speed study from November. She stated during the morning hours there were 82 vehicles, 32 of which were at the speed limit or below. The rest were above, with a top speed taken at 53 mph. The afternoon study was composed of 96 vehicles, in which only 30 were at or below the speed limit.

“If the study were taken in the summer, when there is higher traffic, it makes it difficult for those of us that walk the street, there are accidents waiting to happen,” Hooper said. “A 30 mph limit would be more consistent with the conjoining roads.”

Commissioner Dr. Vidya Kora said they would discuss the issue with County Highway Superintendent Bob Young.

Dennis Metheny also wanted to talk about roads.

“One thing I’ve brought up many times is the striping of the roads. I know under the last president it never happened. I see on the agenda that you have a street sweeper for the county. I would certainly like you to deny that and take the money that was going to be appropriated for that, and I’d like to see the road painted,” Metheny said.

“I know the county has done many roads now (in 2018) and a lot of the roads that were done are completely black.”

When it rains, he said, the sides of the road are not visible.

“You don’t see a centerline. I think it’s a safety issue and that money needs to be used to put stripes on the road. It’s very tough to see the lanes of the roads at night.”

Commissioner Shelia Brillson said striping of roads was an issue she heard along the campaign trail.

“This time of year you can’t apply striping because of the cold, and to switch out some dollars for a piece of equipment I’m not sure is the best strategy, but the striping is on the radar once the weather breaks,” Brillson said.

As for the acquisition of the street sweeper, Metheny said, “I just don’t understand what a street sweeper does for the county, I’d rather see them buy another county truck, in my opinion.”

Young responded to Metheny and Hooper on all three issues, first stating that striping could not be done due to winter weather, and that some roads were striped but the roads paved at the end of the season would have to wait until spring.

In response to lowering the speed limit on Garden Street, Young said he will recommend the speed limit be lowered to 30 mph, and it will be added to next meeting’s agenda.

Young then defended the need for a new street sweeper.

“It’s mainly needed for the subdivisions and small towns including Rolling Prairie and Union Mills. What it does, is when we put down quite a bit of salt and sand in the winter it accumulates and gets in our storm drains and plugs them up,” Young said.

“We use quite a bit of sand and salt and it makes a mess on the roads. This street sweeper is a unique opportunity. It’s a demo machine basically brand new, virtually no hours on the sweeping unit. I don’t think the brooms have ever touched the ground.”

The cost of a new street sweeper is $295,000, but the demo unit is discounted to $265,000, he said.

The county could purchase it with money already in the budget and that he was not asking for more money, but for permission to spend the money.

Currently, La Porte County has one street sweeper, but Young said it is weak and 12 years old.

Brillson asked about how many streets it would be servicing.

Young said it is used for a couple hundred subdivisions and all cities and towns in the county.

“Johnson Road from time to time we have to sweep it, we put a lot of material (sand and salt) on it,” Young said. “With our one machine and it being weak, it won’t be lasting much longer.”

The machine features updated technology, using air vacuuming, unlike the current which uses a broom and dustpan mechanism.

The commissioners approved the proposed expenditure.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting:

• Brillson nominated Kora to be president of Board of Commissioners. In turn, Kora nominated Brillson as vice president. Commissioner Richard Mrozinski was not in attendance.

• The commissioners listed the appointment of current department heads, advisors and liaisons.

• At the conclusion of the meeting, Kora said, “I want to thank the voters of La Porte County for electing me to the Commission twice, once in 2012 and re-electing me in 2016, and today I am honored and humbled to accept the responsibility of becoming the President of the Commission.

I want to remind everyone that we are in 2019, and in 2019 technology plays a huge part in how we stay connected and how we communicate. If anyone wants to reach us, feel free. You can call us, you can email us, you can come into the Commission office. Diane is there, and even though physically I may not be present all the time, I am on duty 24/7/365. We have been elected to serve you, and that is a fact we will never forget.”

• The next meeting will be Jan. 23 (changed from the initial date on Jan.16) at 6 p.m. in the La Porte County Complex.

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