ActivePaper Archive Vehicle speeding targeted - Hobbs News Sun, 10/16/2012

Vehicle speeding targeted

LEVI HILL/NEWS-SUN Hobbs City Commissioner Jonathan Sena holds up a sign used in Las Cruces as part of a community anti-speeding awareness campaign.

Speeding in Hobbs was once again the top story Monday night at a regular Hobbs City Commission work session and regular commission meeting.

During the city’s work session Commissioner Jonathan Sena discussed the problem with speeding in the city and his district in particular, and presented his plans for an educational campaign to reduce speeding.

“There are 9,000 students in Hobbs and 4,000 of them come into my district,” Sena said. “Forty-two percent of all students in Hobbs come into my district and the number one issue brought up to me by my constituents is speeding.”

Sena cited comments from constituents saying they fear for their children’s lives and one couple who said they are considering moving out of town into the country to escape the speeding motorists and give their children a safer environment.

Discussion on speeding ratcheted up during the regular commission meeting where several residents from southeast Hobbs spoke to the council about the lack of curbs and gutters in sections of southeast Hobbs and truck speeding.

“We have been asking for (curbs and sidewalks) for 15 years and you have been telling us you are working on it all this time,” one resident said.

“When we can invest millions on a park in the north side of town, we sure should be able to put in curbs and gutters in south Hobbs that should have been there years ago,” said resident Wanda Bell.

Sena presented his idea for a campaign similar to what Las Cruces and cities in California have adopted that put signs in neighborhoods asking motorists to respect the neighborhoods and drive 25 miles per hour, five miles less than the legal residential speed limit.

City Engineer Todd Randall said the city came up with a revised traffic calming policy in 2008 that requires a resident to get signatures from 65 percent of the residents of a block before the city will do a traffic study, which includes speed monitoring, of a neighborhood.

Since 2008 the city has seen 67 requests, but only five had brought in the required signatures and only one has qualified for a study — Copper Street. Randall said 35 of the 67 requests came from Sena’s district.

Randall said residents often think of speed bumps as a cure to speeding, but there are other solutions and speed bumps are not always feasible due to drainage issues and other concerns.

Randall said he suggests a three-prong approach to slowing speeders — education, enforcement and engineering, which could include narrowing streets to make drivers feel less secure speeding, speed bumps, bike lanes and roundabouts.

City Manager J.J. Murphy said he believes no approach is possible without heavy enforcement of traffic laws and he hopes to see the city increase its police presence in neighborhoods by hiring more police officers.

“I have asked for commission support to build up our police force,” he said, “so we can have things like bike patrols, two officers in a car and traffic patrols. I think if we hit our numbers we could do more traffic calming and more proactive law enforcement.”

The city currently has about 67 employed officers and Murphy said he would like to get that number to at least 90 officers.

“I am not going to tell you we will have a solution in 30 days, but traffic calming, public safety is my number one priority,” he said. “Police and fire are one area I want to give them all the tools necessary to be successful.”

Sena asked the commission to consider a mid-year line item adjustment to provide some $15,000-$20,000 for the campaign efforts, which would include small signs in neighborhoods and large billboard signs around town.

Commission Joe Calderon also suggested the city crack down harder on speeders and get a reputation like Ropesville, Texas, for being extremely hard on speeding.