Rail crossing safety improvements can't wait, they decide.
Stop signs will be posted at nine railroad crossings in Storm Lake as soon as next week after members of the Storm Lake City Council urged quick adoption of an ordinance last night. It is the first step in a process that may see three crossings closed.
The council passed all three readings of an ordinance in a single meeting to add stop signs at Barton, Grand, College, Ontario, Geneseo, Seneca, Oneida, Hudson and Gilbert.
Also, the council set a public hearing for a proposal to close rail crossings at Seneca Street, Grand and College Avenues.
The actions are a result of a train-vehicle fatality in May of this year, and a city-railroad agreement between the city and railroad company for improvements made to four crossings earlier this year.
Meeting yesterday, council member Dennis Vaudt moved to waive the second reading of the ordinance and pass on third. All five council members voted in favor.
"If we're going to do this, I'd hate to see someone get hurt at a railroad crossing waiting for us to pass a second and third reading," Vaudt said.
The stop signs will be located at railroad crossings which currently do not have either warning lights or crossing arms.
Public Safety Director Mark Prosser said he would prefer to have had the three readings spread over three council meetings to allow more time to educate the public, but after the council gave final approval said the department can step up its education effort.
"We'll give warnings and work with public education before enforcement," he said.
City council members suggested erecting those stop signs during a study session last month on closing three of the city's 16 railroad crossings.
The stop signs will make a railroad crossing a mandatory stop regardless if a train was approaching or not, Prosser said.
Also, a public hearing was set to close three railroad crossings at Seneca, Grand and College. The hearing will be at 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 19, in the City Hall council chambers.
The city has reached a "tentative agreement" with the Illinois Central Canadian National Railway Company to close those crossings. It is part of an earlier deal with the railroad company to close crossings in exchange for upgrades at other railroad crossings in the city.
The city initially began a review of railroad crossings because of that agreement, which stated if the railroad would install crossing arms and lights at four crossings, then the city would either close three crossings or pay about 10 percent of the upgrade costs or about $40,000.
However, after the death of B.J. Strandberg in May, Storm Lake's city administrator advised the traffic safety team to review all crossings in Storm Lake and make any recommendations it saw as fit.
The city's traffic safety team recommended closing those three along with the Geneseo Street crossing, the location of a fatal car-train accident in May which killed Strandberg.
However, public opposition arose to that from Silk Screen Ink, the Storm Lake Chamber and SLADC because of impacts it could have on businesses south of Geneseo. The city council advised only closing Seneca, Grand and College during last month's study session.
In other news:
* In another traffic safety move, the council approved upgrading all city traffic lights to LED lighting. The council accepted a bid from General Traffic Control of Spencer at a cost of $33,615.
Administrative Services Director Justin Yarosevich said after reviewing the city's electrical use, the use of LED lighting could cut back considerably on electric costs.
"LED lights produce a brighter light while saving on the the amount of energy used," Yarosevich said, adding maintenance is reduced with LED lights, which typically last more than seven years.
About 434 red, green and "Don't Walk" lights will be replaced because they are used more than yellow and "Walk" lights.
"LED lighting uses a tenth of the energy that a normal incandescent bulb uses," Yarosevich said.
As an example, 69-watt bulbs are used on "Don't Walk" and green lights, and 135-watt bulbs on red lights. All LED lighting only uses 7 watts of energy for each installed, Yarosevich said.
Combined energy and maintenance savings per year would be about $15,800, Yarosevich said, which would pay for the project in two to three years.
Also, the U.S. Department of Transportation plans on requiring new signs for "Walk" and "Don't Walk" signals. By 2005 cities will need to replace pedestrian crossings which use words with ones that use symbols.
While the LED lighting project being installed will meet requirements for the "Don't Walk" signal, Yarosevich said a separate bid was needed for the "Walk" signals. That is at a cost of $2,374.
The total project for general traffic controls and the "Walk" signals is $50,615, but with a rebate from MidAmerican Energy the total cost will be $33,615.
Because of demand, installation will not be until March of 2002, Yarosevich said.
* The council passed the second reading of an ordinance to ban open burning year round in the city limits.
The current code allows burning within city limits only during times set by the fire chief, but the city council removed the fire chief's ability to authorize open burning during 1999 and 2000 and placed a moratorium on open burning, which expired this year.
If the ordinance passes, open burning will be banned except for limited times set by the fire chief to aid in the clean up of debris following manmade or natural disasters.