Apalachicola commissioners Tuesday night learned a lot about traffic in the city, and it was clear not all residents agree on how to handle it.
The commission got the easy stuff out of the way early in the meeting, unanimously approving an ordinance to allow golf carts to travel streets at night provided they meet state requirements for travel in darkness.
Golf carts will be able to operate from sunset to sunrise, provided they possess brake lights, turn signals and integrated headlights, which are those connected to the vehicle. They also must have a windshield to operate during the hours of darkness, but unlike the other items, a windshield is currently required for daylight operation.
While the golf cart ordinance was approved without discussion, the rest of the meeting included a spirited back-and-forth regarding other traffic control measures.
On the agenda was a proposal to transform the intersections of Commerce Street and Avenue D, Commerce Street and Avenue E and 11th Street and Avenue F from two-way to four-way stops.
City Administrator Betty Taylor-Webb said businesses contacted downtown did not object to the four-way stops, and that she planned to speak with John Croom regarding the Avenue F intersection, as well as about Croom’s Transportation vehicles that appear to be an obstruction in the yard.
Commissioner Brenda Ash said she has heard questions raised by residents as to whether more stop signs are needed.
“The city is full of stop signs, you might as well get on a bicycle,” she said. “Is it actually necessary? Is it serving the purpose we set it up for?”
Police officer Pam Lewis said “most people think they’re a nuisance,” but Clarice Powell, a resident who has long asked for speed bumps and other traffic control measures in her neighborhood and elsewhere, objected.
“We hear that people are tired of people speeding up and down the streets,” said Powell.
Harrison Jones rose to object to speed bumps, which he said are tearing up his vehicles.
“I had to put in $1,800, I had to replace my struts, for the same speed bumps in front of my house,” he said. “Every time you ride up on those things, you’re about to tear your car apart. They have been a nuisance to me and I have grandchildren. We need to watch our children.
“I think we have too many stop signs. There’s just so many, I’m stopping, going, stopping, going,” he said. “Give us just one street to breeze through.”
Jerry Weber, who resides with Powell on Frederick Humphries Street, next to the offices of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDOACS), spoke in strong support of traffic control.
“This is not about roads, this is not about speeding, this is not about speed bumps, this is not about stop signs,” he said. “This is all about respect for our neighborhoods. I think you’re nuts to pull the speed bumps out.”
Weber shared photos with commissioners of what he said were ticketable offenses. “We don’t put this in just because we like speed bumps. We have a problem in this community,” he said. “Somebody’s going to get killed. I’m putting you on notice right now. It is disrespect in our communities. We have a lot of disrespect from a lot of our other neighborhoods.”
Weber said he has had to clear away dogs hit by cars. “How do you kill a dog in a neighborhood with a 20 mph speed limit,” he said. “These are hit and runs. They don’t stop; we see it happen.
“The ‘don’t-want-as’ don’t want to abide by the rules in our neighborhood,” he said. “They think it’s an old dirt road. It’s up to you all to say ‘we’re taking the bull by the horn.’”
Taylor-Webb said she would look more closely at whether the city could erect removable posts, or chain closed the gate that enters into the parking lot of the FDOACS building. She said Fire Chief George Watkins has objected to the closure, and that both the gate and fence are owned by the state, and that it is not clear whether the city can block entrance to a state agency.
County Commissioner Noah Lockley spoke in favor of creating one through street without stop signs that would enable swifter passage by motorists. “We need a ‘breakthrough street’ on the Hill,” he said.
“We usually we get a request from somebody who sits in the neighborhood,” said Johnson. “If those stop signs are there or those speed bumps are there, somebody has asked for that. We don’t arbitrarily put them there.”
Carol Barfield said instead of creating more four-way stops, Apalachicola police officers need to write more traffic tickets. “If they pay a ticket that will slow them down enough,” she said.
The commission agreed to direct the issue to the city’s Community Pride committee, a public forum to discuss matters that pertain to the quality of life in the city.