It likely will be 2018 before Whitehall decides whether to replace traffic lights with three-way stop signs near Beechwood and Etna Road elementary schools.

"There is absolutely no rush," Service Director Zach Woodruff said last week after Whitehall City Council withdrew legislation required to implement the proposed change.

The sponsors of the legislation withdrew the ordinances during the July 18 council meeting.

Whitehall administrators, at the behest of Whitehall City School District officials, sought emergency passage of the legislation at a second reading July 5, but that effort failed 5-1, requiring the legislation to be held over for a third and final reading July 18, when it was instead pulled from the agenda.

Councilman Wes Kantor, who voiced early opposition to the measure, said he would have voted against it "and had the votes to defeat it" had a vote been called.

Kantor was critical of the sponsors of the legislation for, he said, not vetting the proposal well enough before proceeding.

"You should know a thing or two about it and what residents think before sponsoring something," Kantor said.

Councilman Lee Stahley said he and Larry Morrison met with Woodruff after school district administrators, including Director of Operations David Hausmann and Superintendent Brian Hamler, indicated a preference for the traffic lights to be removed in lieu of three-way stop signs.

At the July 5 meeting, Morrison moved for the legislation to be adopted as an emergency and was the only member to vote in the affirmative.

Stahley said he intended to vote in favor of measure but public criticism of the proposal, including from his former teacher at Beechwood Elementary School, prompted him to reconsider his position.

After listening to residents and other council members, Stahley said he believes "there needs to be further discussion" of the proposal.

Instead, Stahley said he expects to reintroduce the legislation as early as September, but that now appears unlikely.

Other council members indicated more time was needed to consider the proposal, including Councilman Bob Bailey, who inquired about a traffic study. But Woodruff said a traffic study never was considered when proposing the change.

"It is not part of the city's budget in 2017," Woodruff said.

Neither has the scope of such a study or how it would be funded been discussed, Woodruff said.

Since it's no longer possible for the project to be completed by the time Whitehall students return to class Aug. 16, Woodruff said, time is no longer of the essence.

"It was our goal to have the new stop signs in place (by Aug. 16) but now that it isn't an option, there is no need to move fast," he said, adding that if the change is made, it would be put in place for the start of school next August.

The withdrawn legislation would have resulted in the removal of a traffic light at a crosswalk in front of Beechwood Elementary School.

Stop signs on Etna Street and Sigmund Avenue would have been made into three-way stops.

A traffic light at Etna Road and Beaver Avenue, outside Etna Road Elementary School, also would have been removed in lieu of the intersection becoming a three-way stop.

The proposal also divided Whitehall's school board.

Board Vice President Walter Armes opposed the change, while board member Leo Knoblauch supported it.

"I'm OK with the city taking time to find the best way to do it. If a traffic study is needed to help make a better decision, that's OK, too," Knoblauch said.

Hamler also said taking additional time is not a concern.

"The plan to remove the traffic lights in front of Beechwood and Etna Road elementary schools and replace them with other traffic controls, including flashing stop signs, has met some resistance," Hamler said.

"There are varying opinions amongst both members of council and school employees as to the value of removing the lights. While I like the plan, I think the decision to delay and gather more information is a good one.

"In the meantime, we will continue to focus on student safety and are very confident that the current situation provides the necessary traffic controls for us to do so," Hamler said.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

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