The Rainsville City Council held a special called meeting on Wednesday, hearing from Rainsville resident Don Laney regarding removing the stop signs on Chavies Bridge.
During the Oct. 19 council meeting, the council voted to remove the two stop signs located at the three-way stop near Chavies Bridge and replace them with speed bumps and new signs. Mayor Rodger Lingerfelt voted “no,” and Councilman Marshall Stiefel was absent from the meeting.
Lingerfelt said the purpose of the meeting was to allow Laney the opportunity to address the council.
“Mr. Don Laney had called me and talked to me about getting on the agenda and talking about the Chavies Bridge stop signs,” he said.
Laney, who resides in the Chavies community, was accompanied to the council meeting by a host of other residents.
“I feel like you all are good people, honest people. I trust you and I felt like if you heard from citizens of the Chavies community, you might reverse your decision,” he said.
Laney said the residents of the area like the stop signs. He said before the stop signs were placed, there had been several incidents in that area.
“There was one serious fender bender, but since the signs have been up, all of that has slowed down,” he said. “I know it's a three-way stop, but there are actually six roads that feed that little area from 100 feet on one side of the bridge to 150 feet on the other side.”
Laney said he had spoken to everyone in that community and assured the council they were all 100% in agreement that nobody wants the stop signs gone.
“There is a lot of traffic, you wouldn’t think so, but there is,” he said.
Laney presented a petition signed by 88 people to keep the stop signs and not replace them with speed bumps.
The petition read, ‘We the citizens of the Chavies community respectfully request that the city of Rainsville leave the stop signs at the Chavies Bridge as is and we don’t want the speed bumps.’
Four of the 88 people who signed the petition do not reside in the Chavies community. However, Laney said they are frequent commuters of the bridge.
“Two of those four are school bus drivers for Plainview High School, and they said it had helped them immensely,” Laney said. “One just passes through, but one passes through [the bridge] goes out near the Chavies Church, then turns around and has to come back and make a right turn.”
He said the school bus had difficulty turning without having to use the left lane to some degree.
Coming up to that intersection, Laney said drivers are blinded. So, they are going over into a lane without the stop signs where they can’t see the oncoming traffic.
Laney also pointed out that residents who live on either side of the bridge would have a hard time pulling out their driveways.
“Mrs. Gregogy, her driveway is right past the intersection, and I checked it today and you can not see her driveway until you get over the intersection,” he said. “If she’s trying to back out, it’s like Russian roulette; it’s a 50/50 chance there.”
Laney respectfully requested the council reconsider their decision to remove the stop signs.
“I know yall are fair people and wanna do what’s best for your citizens as long as it’s legal,” he said.
Councilman Derek Rosson and Brandon Freeman said they would vote in favor of reversing the council's decision.
“I want to make an apology to the citizens of Chavies because I voted for something, and I didn’t do any research on it. If that would have been on the agenda, there wouldn’t have been any issues,” said Freeman. “I made a mistake, I voted and I won’t ever be guilty of doing that again.”
Councilman Bejan Taheri said as far as safety is concerned, he had discussed the issue with the Alabama Department of Transportation, who suggested the speed bump would be the best way to slow traffic down and that was the reason Councilman Ricky Byrum brought it up.
“I spoke to [Police] Chief [Kevin] Smith about the stop signs, and there are a few young people that live on that street that don’t pay attention to the stop signs,” he said. “They run the stop signs, so we thought well let's take the signs out and put the speed bump because once we do that, there is no way somebody can hump over that without losing control of their vehicle.”
Taheri said he would vote in favor of leaving the stop signs. However, he just wanted to explain why they voted to remove them in the first place.
Councilman Marshall Stiefel said he was absent from the previous meeting due to COVID-19. However, if he had been present, he would have voted against the removal along with the mayor because he had spoken to people in the Chavies community a few months back.
“I’ll be honest with you. I am on my way out, and I always say what I want to say anyway. I think it was nothing more than a hit at the people that live on that bridge for having some of my signs up, and that’s unfortunate,” said Stiefel. “That’s the nature of politics and to be honest with you, the man is not here that was leading that charge.”
He said as elected officials, they represent the city's people and he heard some people outside the city didn’t like the stop signs.
“I hate that, but they don’t live in the city and that’s who we voted to represent,” Stiefel said.
Lingerfelt said his vote remains the same and in favor of keeping the stop signs and was aware of the Chavies community opinion and the situation.
The council voted unanimously to rescind the previous action and leave the stop signs in place as is.
An executive session was held to discuss ongoing litigation. The council approved the hiring of Benjamin Goldman to sign ordinances for the City of Rainsville. No hire date was given.
The council also:
• approved the bid from Jones Utility Service of $6,000 authorizing the smoke test for the sewer lines on the west fork of the sewer line by RMC Rentals and Sales to comply with the recent Alabama Department of Environmental Management citations.
A smoke test is a sewer inspection method in which a non-toxic smoke is blown into maintenance holes to help locate pipe leaks, broken manholes, cracks and uncapped lines.
Councilman Ricky Byrum was absent from Wednesday's meeting due to quarantine.
The next council meeting is scheduled for Nov. 2, 2020, at 5 p.m in the Tom Bevill Enrichment Center. Newly elected council members will be sworn in at this meeting.