The City of Winder plans to keep the fine for stopping on the railroad tracks at $250 as the city’s police department works to more aggressively enforce against violations.
In light of a few crashes in recent months that were caused by people illegally stopping on the tracks and snarled downtown traffic, the Winder City Council discussed increasing the Municipal Court fine during its Monday, Feb. 3 work session. But the item was left off the council’s Tuesday, Feb. 4 voting session agenda, as the general consensus was to see if the department’s closer monitoring of the issue would have a positive impact.
“I take responsibility. Our officers haven’t always given the attention to this particular violation that maybe we should,” police chief Jim Fullington told the council during the Monday work session.
Fullington said the department made a total of 42 stops last year for vehicles illegally stopping on the tracks but that roughly two-thirds of those resulted in written warnings. Since December, he said police have been more aggressive with their enforcement and have made 37 stops over the last three months, issuing 25 citations.
“We’re giving it more attention and we’re already seeing the results,” Fullington said.
The most recent accident occurred Jan. 28 when a vehicle pulling a 35-foot trailer stopped on the CSX Railroad crossing on North Broad Street by McDonald’s and was struck by a slow-moving train, causing an intersection closure of more than an hour.
Last fall, another vehicle carrying a trailer was struck at the Broad Street crossing, impacting every crossing from Athens Street by Popeye’s to Horton Street by Hill’s Ace Hardware. That resulted in heavy train damage and a five-hour intersection closure.
Fullington said many of the incidents of vehicles being illegally stopped on the tracks are due to driver misgauging the timing on traffic lights that are in close proximity to the crossings.
If so desired by the council, the city would be able to raise the fine to up to $1,000, but Fullington recommended leaving it at $250.
“For somebody that makes a mistake in judgment and gets stuck, ($1,000) is pretty harsh,” he said. “I’d like to see us leave it where it is and give us time to do a better job enforcing it and see what happens. If you do decide to raise it in the future, I wouldn’t go above $500. That’s my personal opinion.”
Fullington’s recommendation was met with general consensus from the council, even though councilman Chris Akins said he would personally like to see the fine increased.
“As long as (the department is) going to enforce it, and it’s going to be a concentrated effort, it’s worth a try,” councilman Travis Singley said.
In action at Tuesday’s voting session, the council:
•approved an amendment to the city’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget that allows the city to allocate funds collected in excess of $200,000 for the library assessment to be put toward property maintenance and improvements at the Winder Public Library. City and library officials have said parking lot renovations and landscape maintenance are needed at the building. Mayor David Maynard said at a council work session last month that the city had brought in more than $224,000 through the assessment. As part of an agreement with Barrow County, the city can only use assessment revenue to fund library property improvements.
•approved a new pedestrian crossing by the library near the intersection of West Candler and Bellview streets. The work will include reflective paint and standard signs for an estimated cost of $800. The council was also presented with an option to install flashing safety lights for more than $9,000 but opted not to pursue that.
•approved $44,800 for repairs to and the widening of the Betts Street. A 10-percent contingency is included in the project, bringing the total not-to-exceed cost to $49,280.
•approved the purchase of new open-records request software in the amount of $10,816. The agreement also includes an annual cost of $6,100. City clerk Maddison Dean said the new software would help streamline the process for responding to and fulfilling requests. Citizens will be able to track and monitor the progress of their request online.
•approved the publishing of requests for proposals for assistance with the 2021 Community Home Investment Program (CHIP) and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) programs.
•approved five appointments to the city’s Historic Preservation Commission. The appointments for Ray Mattison, Ricky Peppers and Patricia Stallings are reappointments. Erin Alvarez and Holt Persinger are new appointments.
•approved a peddler’s license application by Neil McElroy to go door-to-door contacting prospective clients for Edward Jones Financial. No products will be sold.