While viewing the video of the April 19, meeting of the Hazlehurst City Council, I was surprised to hear School Board member John Girtman say that the roundabouts, which the city council has been working on for the past two years, had never been brought up at a school board meeting and were never discussed by the board. His statement is, quite simply, not true.
I, myself, brought the matter up at the school board’s Dec. 11, 2017, meeting, a fact that is easily verified by looking at the board meeting minutes.
At that meeting, I handed out 10-page reports to each of the board members present. While Mr. Girtman was absent at that meeting, the other six board members were there. I also had a photo presentation prepared to go over each of the steps taken by the city council over the last two years.
After the presentation, a couple of board members had general questions but no one expressed any reservations about the project. Had their been any concerns, objections, worries, whatever ….. the council would have been happy to meet with the board, and include in the meeting the officials to explain the plan for the roundabouts they came up with — those officials included a nationally known traffic flow specialist, then-Superintendent Dr. Rob Brown, then-Hazlehurst Police Chief Steve Land, County Roads Superintendent Robert Lewis and a number of key school system employees.
The roundabout idea did not originate with the council. It originated with those people who were members of the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School Program study committee tasked with improving the safety of streets and sidewalks in the area of our schools.
The committee came up with the plan — the roundabouts being only one part of a multifaceted approach to improving students’ safety — and the council was merely seeking to accommodate that plan. Let me emphasize that the study committee was heavily weighted with school system officials and, to my knowledge, Chief Land was the only city official involved in the study.
Additionally, I worked for months, one-on-one primarily with Assistant School Superintendent Chuck Crosby and, to a lesser extent, with School Superintendent Dr. Stan Rentz. I even arranged a meeting with those two, myself and Carl Hofstadter of Hofstadter and Associates engineering firm in Macon.
It was only after the school board’s Dec. 11, 2017, meeting, when no board member expressed any reservations about the roundabouts, that the city gave Hofstadter and Associates the go ahead to begin engineering the roundabouts and preparing bid documents to solicit bids on the work, which is scheduled to begin in four weeks.
At the time of the board’s Dec. 11 meeting, the city had spent no money toward the project. Now, the city has obligated more than $20,000 in engineering fees and I seriously doubt they’ll want to throw that money away.
Now, a little about roundabouts in general. Studies have shown that roundabouts are safer than traditional stop sign or signal-controlled intersections.
• According to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, roundabouts reduced injury crashes by 75 percent at intersections where stop signs or signals were previously used for traffic control.
• According to the Federal Highway Administration, roundabouts have been proven safer and more efficient than other types of circular intersections.
• According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, roundabouts have been shown to significantly decrease the number of crashes, particularly those with serious injuries.
• According to an article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, “The Minnesota Department of Transportation recently released results of its most comprehensive study of roundabouts and found that the circular intersections are much safer than traditional intersections controlled by stop signs or stoplights.”
• According to the New York State Department of Transportation, roundabouts are safer, sustainable and more efficient than traditional intersections. Crashes in roundabouts are also less severe, resulting in fewer injuries and fatalities.
• According to Wikipedia, roundabouts are safer than both traffic circles and junctions — experiencing 39% fewer vehicle collisions, 76% fewer injuries and 90% fewer serious injuries and fatalities.
I could go on and on and fill up this entire page with facts about the proven safety of roundabouts.
And another thing, at a meeting of the council last week, Pam Anderson told the council “you had somebody pushing it who’s no longer here, and you’re left holding the bag for whatever happens as a result of it.”
She, of course, was referring to me. Let’s be clear, the council voted almost a year ago, by a 3-1 vote, to proceed with trying to find funding for the proposed roundabouts. The mayor cast the opposing vote and I was “left holding the bag” to try to find funding assistance myself. I was merely trying to see that the wishes of the council were carried out and that the work of the Safe Routes to School study committee was followed up on. I don’t see how that leaves the council holding any bag.