Texting Out, Traffic Safety Unit is Back

Source: Troy PD Facebook page. "Troy PD 2014 Dodge Charger - Photo courtesy of Kristen Drum."

By CYNTHIA KMETT

If your driving habits aren’t the best, particularly if texting while driving is your habit, it might be time to reform.

During last Thursday’s consideration of items proposed but not in the budget, the topic of restoring the Police Department’s Traffic Safety Unit was explored. It was once larger but was disbanded when the recession hit.

A revived unit was proposed for consideration by Councilman David Hamilton during a recent city council meeting. A new unit would be smaller than the original with one sergeant and four officers.

Is the unit worth the additional cost of $571,000 a year?

A recap by Captain Robert Redford of a study with a mock Traffic Safety Unit at the intersection of John R and 14 Mile Road by Oakland Mall and Oakland Plaza seemed to make believers of the entire council. It seems that just the presence of the police cars in the area cut accidents and crime by about one third.

Traffic accidents, by the way, were up 12 percent last year.

Councilman Ed Pennington, owner of Pennington Collision, told his fellow councilmembers that 80 percent of his business is due to distracted driving. While Troy Police will generally give a driver a warning the first time they’re stopped for texting while driving, that warning is stored in the city’s computer base. You won’t be so lucky next time. The ticket is about $140.

While it didn’t come up at this meeting, council had previously asked the police to track how many accidents were happening around those new billboard signs on Rochester Road. The city already keeps track of where all accidents happen, so a comparison won’t be hard.

As Councilwoman Ellen Hodorek noted, the safety of our residents is a primary concern for council. Now it’s up to Troy’s Financial Director Tom Darling to find the money in this year’s budget, which goes into effect on July 1.

Councilman Ethan Baker wasn’t as happy about the fate of his proposal to open the Troy Public Library seven days a week. He said he’s had numerous questions about why the library is closed on Fridays.

But back in the early days of the recession, that council was considering closing down the library completely, as the assessed value of property in the city had dropped by 33.33 percent, and tax revenue went with that decrease. It was the fight to keep the library open that brought both Hodorek and Councilwoman Edna Abrahim into the political arena. The library supporters asked voters to approve a one-mill tax to keep the library open. It failed. They would try again with a .7 mill tax for a six-day-a-week library. It passed, and it has been renewed until 2021. They picked Friday to close as that was the day with the least traffic, and they would stay open on Sunday when kids were out of school and several other libraries in the area are closed.

Baker thought this was a good time to find the money. He said when people are again used to the library being open they would support keeping it open for seven days. Baker didn’t like the idea, however, of just springing a one-mill vote on them without warning as it would be seen as a tax increase. He thought the city might put off buying some other items this year to add the seventh day at the library. But we’re talking millions here, and Hodorek observed this wasn’t a one-time expense.

Plus, the city is doing surveys on wages and classifications for its employees as well as an assessment of what the 52 buildings the city owns will need over the next few years to stay viable. She also noted that six days was what the voters had chosen.

Everyone on council would like a seven-day a week library. Councilman Dave Henderson quipped that he would be happy with eight days a week, but not at the expense of other needs the city might face in the future.

There was one suggestion that got no traction with council – flowers in the medians. This was another amenity that disappeared in 2008. DPW Director Curt Bovensiep explored the idea, picking 20 median spaces that would look nice with flowers. He did tell council that the irrigation system that took care of Big Beaver’s watering needs hadn’t been turned on in a decade and was no longer viable. After consulting with landscapers, he reported they wanted an average of $20,000 to tear up the grass in a bed and prepare with new topsoil, $15,000 to plant the flowers, and $35,000 to water them because they’d have to truck the water in at each bed. Council quickly nixed the idea. However, Hodorek said they might make the areas more attractive with art pieces.

The city’s millage rate is 10.2965. Headlee rolled back the millage for our capital fund and the library’s millage. The city will vote on the budget at the first Monday meeting in May.