MARY ANN ANDERSON
During the Citizens Comments section of the Monday night work session and then again on Thursday night, Pam Anderson, a retired teacher with the Jeff Davis County School System, addressed the council with her concerns about the proposed roundabouts in the school district. One is to be located at the intersection of Pat Dixon Road and Charles Rogers Boulevard, and the other at Pat Dixon Road and Collins Street.
The recommendation for the roundabouts, it was pointed out by Ward Three Councilman Eric Griffin, were based on a June 2016 Georgia Department of Transportation Safe Routes to School study (SRTS). Among those on the SRTS team were former Police Chief Steve Land, former School Superintendent Rob Brown, Jeff Davis County Road Superintendent Robert Lewis, and a host of other school and law enforcement officials. According to the study, roundabouts are “designed to slow traffic and reduce conflict points with pedestrians. At locations where driver speed is a concern, this treatment can help slow traffic and make it safer for students to cross the street in well-designed crosswalks.”
During Monday night’s work session, Anderson said that she hopes the council will “do a little rethinking” about the roundabouts and suggests they will be a “huge problem,” especially with what she termed “aggressive drivers.” She said that traffic is “not that bad” in the areas in which the roundabouts are proposed – and have been unanimously voted upon by the Council – except when school is “taking in and letting out.” She also cited the number of log trucks and farm equipment traveling on Pat Dixon Road , vehicles that may have trouble with navigating roundabouts.
“I really believe in my heart that the best thing for our people for these two locations is to either do a four-way stop or put in a light,” she advised the council. “I live out there. I come down Pat Dixon Road all the time. I’m willing to give up my right of way and stop at a red light when I get one, and wait, if that’s what it takes. But I am concerned about the safety that a roundabout will make it not as safe as it is right now.”
Anderson returned to Thursday night’s meeting, saying that “a lot of people in our community” didn’t know about the roundabouts or thought that their construction was only a rumor. But Griffin pointed out to her and John Girtman, who also addressed the council with his concerns on the roundabouts, that since June of 2016 numerous mentions about them were made in the Jeff Davis Ledger and that requests for public input had been placed on the City of Hazlehurst Facebook page.
“I’m not saying that roundabouts in and of themselves are bad,” Anderson continued. “I’ve seen them in places where they work well and in places where they’re terrible. But I think those two locations where they are under consideration are not the right places for them.”
Girtman, who is a member of the Jeff Davis Board of Education, addressed the Council and told them he was “playing catch-up” on the roundabouts, saying, “For some reason, I didn’t know about them.”
And, although the roundabouts are in the school district, he said they were not discussed in any meetings of the Board of Education.
“It just hasn’t been brought up,” he pointed out, even though former Ward Two Councilman Tommy Purser had met with school officials on several occasions to discuss the roundabouts.
Girtman said that he thought four-way stops at those two intersections would be less expensive and would be better than roundabouts, adding how “great” the four-way stop at the intersection of Jefferson Street and Charles Rogers Boulevard is working.
“Why spend the extra money when something so simple can solve the problem?” he asked the council, adding that he thought roundabouts would “wreak havoc” on those intersections with wrecks.
Griffin told Girtman that the council has done what is “prudent for the city and county,” and that he is concerned that citizens are coming forward only now to complain about the roundabouts when they’ve been discussed in “open session, twice a month” since June 2016 when the roundabouts were first brought up.
“Roundabouts are great in some places,” Girtman said, echoing Anderson. “But it’s going to cause you more trouble than you’re anticipating. That’s my personal opinion. I know how that traffic is.”
Stone told both Girtman and Anderson that the council “heard” them, and that they had presented their arguments well.
“I won’t say that your effort is lost,” he said to them. “I’ll assure you that this group of men will exercise their best judgment.”