Tuesday, May 19, 2015

TOP STORY >> Mom upset over reckless driving

Leader staff writer

At Monday’s Cabot City Council meeting, a mother asked that neighborhoods be made safer after describing how a 16-year-old driver “joy riding” nearly struck her three children in front of their home.

Also, an ordinance lifting the ban on fireworks was read for a second time. It must be read a third time before it can be approved, and aldermen appear to be split on the matter. No one spoke for or against the ordinance.

Teresa Winningham was inside her house on Confederate Drive when she heard screaming and “squealing tires.”

She said, about seeing the car spun around and a brick mailbox next door that the teen had destroyed, “My heart dropped. I thought my children were underneath that vehicle.”

Cypert told Winningham the city would do all it could to address her concerns.
Options include installing “speed-calming devices” like bumps or rumble strips, signs prohibiting through traffic and an electronic radar sign Cabot police bought recently because accidents like that have become more common.

The mother lives in the Shiloh Subdivision, where the mayor said he had already requested greater police presence to enforce the speed limit.

Winningham told The Leader she is willing to consider every available course of action and would circulate the petition required to get speed bumps or strips there.

The mayor said two-thirds of the homeowners must sign in favor of a “speed-calming device,” a 24-hour study must show that there are enough people driving over the limit there, and the city must find an appropriate place to install one.

Cypert said speed bumps or strips couldn’t go in front of a driveway, mailbox or between two driveways set too close together. The city will also decide what type of “speed-calming device” to install, he noted.

City Attorney Jim Taylor added that he would look into charging the teen with endangering the welfare of a minor. He has already received a reckless driving citation.

Winningham told The Leader her 20-year-old son had to grab both and throw one of his younger brothers — ages 3 and 5 — to get them out of the car’s path.

The family recently lost a cousin who was killed after being struck by a driver in his Arizona neighborhood, so the accident hit close to home, Winningham and her husband told the mayor after the meeting.

All three of the couple’s children were playing Frisbee in the front yard around 3:30 p.m. May 6, the mother said, when the teen driver lost control of his car after “squealing his tires around the turn” to impress a friend in the passenger’s seat.

Winningham said the teen, whose permit was suspended, wasn’t the first to cut through her neighborhood and come close to hitting people.

Another teen driver recently struck a car parked on the street about 10 feet from kids who were waiting at a nearby bus stop.

Cypert thanked Winning-ham for bringing her concerns to the council’s attention and said, “We’re sorry you had to go through this traumatic event. I can only imagine how you felt and what the neighbors thought.”

He also suggested partnering with the school district to educate students and parents that they shouldn’t cut through neighborhoods.

In her comments, Winningham noted that there aren’t sidewalks or bike trails in her subdivision. But, the mayor explained, that mistake couldn’t be remedied.

The developer should have included sidewalks, and possibly bike trails, in his plans, but the city didn’t press the issue, Cypert said. Winningham said she understood.

After the meeting, the couple also told him they were concerned about former Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh appearing at the scene of the accident and speaking with the police officer who wrote the citation.

Cypert said he had already heard of and followed up on that. He reassured the Winninghams that the former mayor was just a family friend of the teen and had asked the officer to issue a citation.

In other business:

• Winningham was the only resident who spoke at the meeting, although a crowd was expected to comment on the proposed lifting of the city’s fireworks ban.

It appeared that about half the council wants the ban and the other half doesn’t, as a two-thirds vote is needed to suspend further readings required before it can be adopted and become law.

The vote on a motion to do that was 5-4, with Cypert breaking the tie. But a sixth vote for suspending the readings was needed, the city attorney said.

The council voted on adopting the ordinance, but the city attorney clarified that the motion hadn’t passed as they thought and stopped the vote before a roll call that would have showed where everyone stood.

The ordinance will have to be read again, for a third time, at next month’s meeting before it can be adopted or voted down. However, it was amended from allowing fireworks on New Year’s Eve and July 1-5 to allowing them New Year’s Eve and July 3-5.

• The council passed, with no discussion, a resolution authorizing the mayor to negotiate selling the Richie Road Gym to ARcare.

Mayor Bill Cypert said earlier this month that ARcare had offered $375,000 for the building, parking lot, two baseball fields behind it, the easement and 10 feet of property immediately behind the gym, 502 Richie Road.

ARcare is a private, nonprofit corporation developed to provide affordable care to meet the primary medical and dental needs of residents in rural Arkansas, according to its website.

ARcare wants to open a clinic at the Richie Road site and share the facility with the Lonoke County Christian Clinic, which has been leasing the gym for $1 per year since 2008.

The Christian nonprofit has about $150,000 in loans to pay off, the mayor told the council previously. The loans funded renovations to the old gym that raised the property’s value, and the Christian clinic should be compensated for them, Cypert said then.

The city may still get about $225,000 from the sale that could be used for ongoing parks projects, like improvements to the municipal pool or the under-construction Cabot Sports and Aquatic Complex, the mayor said previously.

• The council approved, with little discussion, an ordinance authorizing the issuance of a $450,000 promissory note so that Regions Bank can provide financing needed to purchase a fire truck. The interest rate is 1.64 percent.

An emergency clause was added because ordinances that are approved without one go into effect after 30 days rather than immediately.

A portion of the city’s taxes designated for fire apparatus will be used to make payments on the loan.