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Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Officials ponder changing strobe traffic lights

St. Marys

By Amy Kronenberger
ST. MARYS - Officials are considering replacing a trio of flashing red strobe lights in the city after learning they violate the Ohio Revised Code.
St. Marys city engineer Craig Moeller on Monday told traffic committee members Robin Willoughby, Bob Fitzgerald and John Bubp that he looked into the matter after learning other cities are dealing with possible legal issues over the strobe lights placed within the red lights.
Safety service director Greg Foxhoven said he investigated the matter and learned the Ohio Revised Code states "strobes shall not be used within or adjacent to any signal indication."
The three intersections in St. Marys with strobe lights are Greenville Road and Main Street, Spruce Street and McKinley Road and Indiana Avenue and Kishler Street.
Foxhoven asked the committee to consider whether the strobes should be removed or if law director Kraig Noble should research the matter further and see if there's a way to keep the lights.
"Everyone we talked to internally seemed to like the lights like this," Foxhoven said. "We're just not sure ... Maybe there's a way to get around this or have council waive this."
Fitzgerald asked if anyone in town complained about the lights. Moeller said no, but he wanted to research it after hearing about potential liability.
Noble said he would be willing to research the matter.
"I can check everything in the United States," he said. "We will check for any litigation on that and see if there's anything out there ... We might also want to check with our insurance, see if they have any thoughts also ... It's hard to see how there could be any liability."
Noble added that he believes the strobe lights have only made the intersections safer and should stay if possible.
"Anytime you deviate from a standard, so to speak, there's a possibility that somebody could come back and say this is what you're supposed to do," he said. "I've always thought that this was a safety, a benefit."
The committee agreed to have Noble look into the possibility of keeping the lights.
A spokeswoman from the Ohio Department of Transportation said she could not comment on the matter this morning.
Also during Monday's meeting, Friendly Tavern owners Michael and Loretta Aquaro asked committee members to look into street parking issues in front of their business at 115 S. Main St. Michael Aquaro said his business and three others must share five street parking spaces.
He said Mike Cool, owner of Cools Locker Room next door, monitors the space directly in front of his business. If Friendly Tavern patrons are parked in that space for more than 20 minutes, he calls the police and forces the customers to move their cars, he noted. However, Locker Room patrons or their delivery vehicle will park there for hours at a time, Aquaro said, with no consequences. He added he did not have time to monitor the spaces and call the police if someone violates the parking limit.
Cool did not attend Monday's meeting and said this morning he did not know about it. He said that the issue arose when tavern patrons would park in the space in font of his restaurant for hours at a time, forcing his delivery drivers to park farther away and carry the food.
"I'm just trying to serve our delivery people and get the deliveries out on time," he said.
Police officer Randy Allemeier attended the meeting and confirmed Aquaro's claim, noting the department has been called several times to settle parking disputes.
Cool said he would like the 20-minute parking signs to be changed from 5 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday to 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Sunday.
The Aquaros asked for any help the committee could give.
Bubp said business owners should be reminded that street parking is for public use and is not reserved for any specific business. Committee members agreed to remove the 20-minute parking limit signs, reverting the spaces to two-hour parking and allowing patrons of both businesses time to eat. The approval of full council is not needed to change the signs, council president Dan Hoelscher noted.
As a possible long-term fix, Foxhoven said a city-owned lot directly across the street from the business could be turned into a parking lot. However, he couldn't guarantee the solution, noting it would take time to work out. The Aquaros said they were happy with the solution.
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