‘Children at Play’ sign debate dominates meeting

Iberia Parish Council Chairman Paul G. Landry hands out copies of the investigative report into Iberia Medical Center board members Frederick ‘Bozo’ Metz and David C. Benson at Wednesday night’s council meeting. The council will discuss the report at its meeting on Oct. 23.

The Iberia Parish Council spent the bulk of its meeting Wednesday night discussing whether or not “Children at Play” signs should be put up at two locations, despite the fact that traffic experts say that the signs are ineffective at best.

The two locations — one in a neighborhood on C. Romero Road, the other on South Estate Drive near Franny’s School of Dance — were brought up during discussion at the council’s committee meeting on Sept. 25. The original proposal was for the C. Romero sign, but the second was added to the resolution after being debated in committee.

District 10 Councilman Eugene Olivier, who had opposed the signs during the committee discussion, said the data does not show that the signs make drivers any more likely to obey traffic laws whether children are in the area or not.

“Statistics show the signs don’t make a difference and, on top of that, it would have to come out of the road maintenance fund, which is broke,” Olivier said. “I went to look at that dance school. That’s a small parking lot, for 20 cars or so. I’m not not sure how much business they have, but I can imagine it is busy when classes are coming out.”

“Are we going to do it for every dancing school?” asked District 11 Councilman Brian Napier.

Napier then asked Parish Legal Council Andy Shealy to weigh in on the sign issue.

“We have been over this ad nauseum,” Shealy said. “If you go down the list of signs in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, they are not approved.”

The MUTCD is the book of standards for signs and signals on roadways to keep drivers and pedestrians safe. According to several studies, the “Children at Play” signs can give children and parents a false sense of security, leading to more playing in the streets. Also, unlike stop signs or speed limit signs, they are not giving motorists specific directions and are basically unenforceable from a traffic safety perspective.

“Police are not going to write a ticket for a ‘Children at Play’ sign if the driver is following the speed limit,” said District 4 Councilman Lloyd Brown. “Why don’t y’all work on the speed limit?”

District 2 Councilman made a substitute motion to drop the speed limit to 20 mph near the dance school, but District 8 Councilman Ricky Gonsoulin pointed out that the speed limit was not germane to the summary published on the council’s agenda.

A second substitute motion to put the sign only at the South Estate Drive location was also defeated, 7-5.

District 5 Councilman Warren Gachassin, who had introduced the original resolution, asked that it be tabled indefinitely so the administration could develop a uniform standard for the signs in the parish, even if that standard means they would all be removed.

In his announcements, Parish President Larry Richard ceded some of his time to a representative from Quality Engineering and Surveying to pitch having the company help residents qualify for the FEMA Flood Mitigation Grant Program, which would help homeowners who live in low-lying areas secure funding to elevate their homes until they are above the flood plain.

“It’s a way to get the homes elevated and get them out of harm’s way before the hurricanes hit,” Richard said.

Gary O’Neal with Quality Engineering said the program keeps the residents in their homes and helps to prevent flooding, which is a benefit to the entire parish.

“What they do is identify these at-risk homes and pay to elevate them above the flood level,” O’Neal said. “The grant covers 80 to 90 percent of the expense. Homeowner pays the cost share. Once they are above flood plain, there is no pressure on parish resources during a flood event. It also creates downward pressure on flood insurance premiums.”

In other business, the council:

• Approved an ordinance clarifying the process for appointing members to the Iberia Medical Center board.

• Received an update on the Storm Water Management Program from Director of Planning, Permitting, and Zoning Sara Gary.

• Passed a resolution amending previous resolutions which appointed members to the Twin Parish Port Commission in order to correct the term dates to reflect the proper terms.

• Passed a resolution accepting the property valuations for real and personal property for 2019 as established by the Iberia Parish Assessor.

• Passed a resolution requesting the Army Corps of Engineers remove trees that fell during Hurricane Barry from Bayou Jack and consider dredging the bayou from Weeks Island Road to the Commercial Canal.

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