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Slowing drivers down

NATCHEZ — The City of Natchez is looking at implementing a policy to slow down speeding drivers in neighborhoods.

City Engineer David Gardner presented a draft of a speed hump policy to the Natchez Board of Aldermen Tuesday at its finance meeting prior to its regular meeting.

The board had previously asked Gardner to prepare a speed hump policy, and Mayor Butch Brown said Wednesday the city has had several complaints about speeders from residents, some who want speed humps in their neighborhoods.

Gardner said having a speed hump policy in place will ensure any placement of speed humps is done so in planned and controlled manner.

“The purpose of having a policy is to have guidelines on where to put them,” Gardner said. “You don’t want to put them randomly throughout the city.”

Gardner said the drafted policy requires that 75 percent of residents sign a petition in favor of the installation of speed humps before they are installed.

The speed humps should also be placed a maximum of 750 feet apart, Gardner said, but 275-foot intervals are ideal.

According to the draft policy, a committee comprised of engineering, public works and traffic department officials should evaluate any requests for speed humps.

Gardner said after the evaluation, the committee would make recommendations to the board of aldermen.

Ward 5 Mark Fortenbery said there are a number of different types of speed humps that have been put down on city streets in the past without the aldermen’s approval.

Fortenbery said some of those speed humps have slowed down emergency vehicle response time as well as damaged those vehicles. He said rather than installing more speed humps, he believes the city could hire two additional police officers that would be assigned to patrol for speeders.

“I’ve always recommended us hiring two more police officers, and all they do is write speeding tickets, I think they would pay for themselves,” he said.

Fortenbery also said he polled the people on his street, and he said most of the residents would prefer police presence on their street to deter speeders.

“The majority of them would rather have an officer on the street than speed humps,” he said.

Traffic Supervisor Curtis Norton explained to the aldermen that a speed hump has a flatter surface than a speed bump that drivers going the speed limit should be able drive over without slowing down.

“Only those speeding excessively are going to be jarred by (speed humps),” Norton said.

Gardner added that if speed humps are properly designed, they should not give drivers obeying the speed limit a problem or damage vehicles.

Brown said Wednesday that the city has had complaints from residents who believe speed humps are improperly installed or have damaged their vehicles.

“I don’t know who put these speed humps down with no forethought, but it is a jaw-jarring experience, and it damages cars,” Brown said. “Those have got to be replaced with some kind of sensible speed hump.”

Brown said at the meeting he would also like to see the city use other “speed-calming devices” in addition to speed humps. He said he is currently negotiating with a private donor who has agreed to provide two Segways, as well as bulletproof vests to the Natchez Police Department.

Brown said two officers will be assigned the Segways, which are two-wheeled self-balancing battery-powered vehicles, to patrol the downtown area.

“When I was mayor before, we had bicycle patrol (downtown),” he said. “It made the tourists feel more at home and safe. Segways allow us to do the same thing but at a higher speed.”

Brown said the city is also considering using other ways to deter speeders, including placing a radar that shows drivers their speed or an empty police car with flashing lights on city streets.

The city has a radar sign that flashes the speed of passing drivers in its inventory, and Brown instructed Norton Tuesday to place the radar in various places around the city to let people know the city is cracking down on speeders.

“Let’s go ahead and put it around town and let people know what we’re trying to do,” he said.

The board agreed at Tuesday’s meeting to have a work session before its Jan. 22 meeting to talk more about the speed hump policy and the use of other devices to deter speeding.