On a day when windy conditions and road obstructions made it difficult to get through to Millwood, several residents of the city did their best to reach municipal leaders with concerns over code enforcement and street safety.
Despite power lines blocking a portion of Argonne Road to the north of Millwood, a small contingent of citizens found their way to the monthly City Council gathering on Monday, echoing issues raised at a community meeting in March about reckless driving on side streets as motorists cut across Argonne en route to arterials like Trent Avenue.
“This is an ongoing problem,” said Jack Bunton, one of several residents in the Riverway section of town who spoke out at the meeting. “We’re looking for solutions and some cooperation. Do we need to build our own signs that say ‘20 mph – Slow down, this is a residential street?’”
Last month, Matt Gillis of Welch/Comer Engineers provided City Council with an overview of a traffic study on Fowler, Empire and Butler roads – three of the side streets that have generated their share of public comment from neighbors upset over speeding vehicles and drivers failing to comply with stop signs.
While Gillis said that the majority of motorists are not traveling at an excessive rate down the streets – 85 percent of vehicles on Empire were clocked under 31 mph while the same percentage of drivers on Fowler were below 26 mph – Millwood Mayor Dan Mork pointed out that he was aware of cars reaching speeds of between 50 to 60 mph. The posted speed limit on all three streets is 25 mph.
On Monday, Bunton said residents are growing tired of the city’s deliberate approach.
“We’re getting kind of fed up,” he said. “We’re funding this program.”
Mork responded by bringing up the emphasis patrols hired by the city to monitor areas of concern. In three months, police wrote 243 violations for speeding and failure to heed stop signs. Mork has indicated that $8,000 has been set aside in city funds for traffic calming expenses – most likely in the form of a radar sign that would track vehicle counts and speeds.
Last February, representatives from Spokane County, the Washington Department of Transportation and the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office met at Millwood City Hall to discuss methods of dealing with the disruptive detours. Ideas included emphasis patrols, radar signs and engineered improvements like speed bumps and traffic circles.
“We’ve done a fair amount of research on this,” said Council Member Kevin Freeman. “We need to start a process of how to address individual streets because we need to have a consensus.”
Bunton said that traffic along residential streets began to grow worse during the Argonne resurfacing project last summer but has not subsided significantly since the work was completed in September. Council Member Glenn Bailey emphasized that while the matter continues to be a priority at City Hall, it should be acknowledged as “a regional issue.”
“These are not just Millwood residents causing the problem,” he said. “It’s about awareness.”
Mork announced a community meeting on Monday, May 24, at 7 p.m. to collect more feedback about traffic-related topics. The gathering at City Hall, Mork said, would be “more of an open discussion about ideas.”
While Bunton and his neighbors aired their grievances about traffic,
Millwood resident Richard Gardner called the city to task about responding too slowly to code enforcement violations throughout town. From a 10-foot high fence to junk cars piling up in a nearby yard, Gardner said “if the city has codes, we need to enforce them.”
Mork said the city has done a better job with code enforcement over the last two to three years, usually providing residents with “a reasonable amount of time to address the issue.” City employee Bill Schultz is in charge of following through with code enforcement concerns. Millwood established a new code enforcement ordinance in 2007.
In two cases, Mork said the city has followed through with legal proceedings when warnings were not enough. Both situations were eventually resolved.
Brian Werst, Millwood city attorney, said City Hall often depends on the diligence of residents.
“Do report the things that you see,” he said. “We rely on citizens to tell us what’s going on.”