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The Sun-Times - Heber Springs, AR
  • Speeding threatens school safety

  • Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department tells Pangburn they can't reduce speeds on highways around school.
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  • Last September, we reported on a new initiative by Pangburn Mayor Todd Slayton to tackle the problem of speeding through the school zone in Pangburn by allowing those sentenced to community service to serve during school hours to call attention to safety. 
     
    Before instituting that program, Mayor Slayton and the city of Pangburn noticed a significant speeding problem through the busy school section of town.  “There’s a school on both sides, (Hwys) 124 and 110,” said Slayton.  “Three entrance points on 110.  The new high school, the parking lot, and the exit for the buses on 124. On 124 there’s a small hill that when you top it, it’s 45 and right there is the 35mph sign so that by the time you get slowed down you’re in front of the school.”
     
    According to Slayton, he contacted the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department about 12 to 13 times, of which he kept a call log, leaving messages and never receiving a call back.  After not receiving a response from the department, he approached the Pangburn City Council and requested the purchase of 25mph school signs to be placed in the area of concern.  The City Council approved the investment as a worthwhile cause.  A few weeks later, the 35mph signs were replaced with the new 25mph signs.
     
    After the new signs were up, Slayton reports they immediately contacted media organizations, which The Sun-Times reported on in the original story.  Slayton said the program was widely popular with not only those able to work off community service, but also with Pangburn residents. 
     
    “We had a problem.  We couldn’t get them to do anything about it.  I fixed it. Problem solved,” said Slayton.
     
    About 10 days after the new signs were up, Slayton reports finally receiving a call from the Highway Department telling him to remove the signs.  Slayton was told the signs were illegal, at which point he asked the department to give him something in writing.  He received a letter telling him to remove the signs on 110 and 124 as per the phone conversation.  No reasoning or justification was given in the letter.
     
    Slayton requested a speed study in November or late December.  The study was done with the 25mph signs up.  Radar was shot at 100 cars and they drop the top 15 speeders in what is termed the 85th Percentile Average.  The average of the remaining speeds is what is determined to be the average median speed. 
     
    Page 2 of 2 - “My question to them was why they would drop the top 15?” said Slayton.  “Those are the ones of most concern.”    Slayton told us they had no answer for that and he requested they throw out the first study.
     
    “They never called me with results… ever,” continued Slayton.  “And then a few weeks ago, they removed the 25mph signs.” 
     
    Slayton instructed his police chief to make a report regarding what he regarded as theft of city property.  He later learned that the Highway Department was responsible for removal of the signs.  He called the department demanding the return of the signs, which they later gave back to the city. 
     
    “I’ve asked they Highway Department why they’re basically telling us ‘No, you’re making it too safe, we need to make it faster,” said Slayton.  “I’ve asked them why they don’t care about Pangburn’s kids.  Why can’t they recognize the fact that we had a problem and we solved it at no cost to them?  What they’re going to force me to do is issue a no tolerance policy, but there we run the danger of writing too many tickets and the state gets us for being a speed trap.  We’ll have to do the math and figure out how many tickets we can write and when we’ll have to stop.”  Should the city have to resort to these measures, it’s not for revenue purposes.  In reality, Slayton reports that the speed limit change resulted in fewer tickets having to be written.  
     
    “I don’t want to resort to that,” said Slayton.  “But I will slow people down.”
    Slayton has the support of the Pangburn community and the elected officials he contacted.
     
    As of publication of this article, we have received a response from the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department regarding speed limits in Pangburn.
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