Whitehall City Council members are expected to decide next week whether to replace traffic lights with stop signs near Beechwood and Etna Road elementary schools.
The four ordinances required to achieve the change are scheduled for third and final readings during council's meeting set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 18, at Whitehall City Hall, 360 S. Yearling Road.
If approved, a traffic light at a crosswalk in front of Beechwood Elementary School, between Etna Street and Sigmund Avenue, would be removed.
The stop signs on Etna Street and Sigmund Avenue at Beechwood Road would be made into three-way stops.
Currently, traffic on Beechwood Road has the right of way at both intersections.
A traffic light at Etna Road and Beaver Avenue, outside Etna Road Elementary School, also would be removed in lieu of the intersection becoming a three-way stop.
The proposal has divided members of both Whitehall City Council and the Whitehall school board.
Whitehall's administration sought emergency adoption of the legislation during its second reading July 5 but didn't garner enough support.
In advance of the vote, Development Director Zach Woodruff said the city asked for emergency passage to allow as much time as possible for the public to acclimate to the change before the start of school Aug. 16.
A vote July 5 to consider the legislation as an emergency failed 5-1.
Councilman Larry Morrison was the only member to support it; Councilman Van Gregg was absent.
"I'm at the point where I think there needs to be a traffic study, certainly further discussion. I don't see how this can proceed tonight," Councilman Bob Bailey said during the meeting.
But Morrison pushed for the change to be made sooner than later.
"This was requested (by administrators of Whitehall schools). I do not see what a traffic study will do," he said.
Councilman Lee Stahley said he arrived at the meeting prepared to vote for its passage but changed his mind after hearing from several school district employees, including his former teacher.
Kasey Burd and Antonia Traylor, both staff members at Beechwood Elementary School, asked council members not to make the change.
"We tell our kids to only use the crosswalk in front of the school where there is a traffic light," said Burd, a teacher at the school, adding that drivers more often miss stop signs than traffic lights.
"If you take out the traffic lights, I think you will see drivers rolling the stop sign. I suggest not removing the traffic light," said Traylor, a library aide and safety patrol adviser at Beechwood.
Whitehall resident Paul Werther – a candidate for City Council in Ward 3, challenging Morrison on the fall ballot – said removing the traffic light on Etna Road is "a bad idea."
"There are so many different opinions," said Councilwoman Karen Conison. "It's not just cost or convenience but what is safest for kids. Let's hold off on this."
Councilman Chris Rodriguez said Gregg's absence alone July 5 should be enough to postpone the vote.
"This should be discussed with (Gregg) at the table," he said.
Councilman Wes Kantor had made known his opposition to the change before the July 5 meeting.
"People run more stop signs in this city than they do traffic lights," said Kantor, adding he believes a majority of residents oppose the change.
School board Vice President Walter Armes said he opposes the changes, but they have the support of board member Leo Knoblauch.
Woodruff said the proposed change stemmed from a meeting with David Hausmann, director of operations for Whitehall schools.
Hausmann said the change "will help promote an increase in overall safety" for students and "help control traffic during nonschool hours."