EUNICE — Struggling to alleviate traffic congestion around the city’s schools, the Eunice City Council again attacked the issue with discussion and the first reading of a new ordinance Tuesday.
The council approved an ordinance during the summer switching one-way travel on certain streets in the area of Eunice schools during school hours in the school year, but some of the changes worried school officials, according to City Manager Marty Moore.
The streets run in front of the high school and circle the elementary and middle schools. All schools are in a confined area of the city.
Moore presented a new ordinance, basically amending the previous ordinance to return east-west Avenue M, near a local oilfield business facility, to a two-lane street continuously and eliminating the change of one-way traffic flow on other streets.
“We had a discussion with the principals,” Moore said. “They had concerns and asked that we come back with this. Honestly, from a traffic flow standpoint, that does make sense.”
Council members asked Police Chief Jimmie Jones for his advice regarding the traffic around the schools. He expressed doubt the traffic congestion could be eliminated.
“If we would pick something and stick with it, it would be fine,” Jones said. “Changing it every semester is a huge headache for everybody, including law enforcement because we’re out there making everybody mad telling them they can’t do that and they’re like, ‘I’ve done it for 30 years.’ It just creates a huge headache.”
He urged the council to find something and stick with it.
“Figure out a way that works and leave it alone. If it’s not broke, then don’t fix it,” Jones said.
He added his conclusion that school start and end times always are expected to lead to traffic congestion.
“Yes, there’s congestion, but I have never been to a school in my life where, when school opens or school gets out, that there’s not congestion out front,” Jones said. “It’s just the way it is. If people don’t want to slow down, don’t drive by the school.”
Changing anything likely will happen only during the winter break period.
Mayor Billy Hobbs said, “If we approve this now, the school would like to wait until after the Christmas break to implement it to give them time to put it out to the parents and everybody else.”
Councilor Mary Lou Vinton, clarifying this would be just the first reading and the ordinance would become official only after a second reading, asked, “Would this be better if we changed it and left it this way?”
Jones responded, “I think this is basically what you’ve got right now. The only difference in what I see is the two-way by John Hendrix (Corp.), which is how it was when I was in school anyway.” He referred to the business near Avenue M.
The council approved the new ordinance unanimously, for a first reading.
In other business, the council approved the city’s five-year Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan and heard Eunice resident Rose Gardner encourage them to oppose the Holtec International plan to store high-level radioactive waste in Lea County.
Moore said he would develop more state-required detail for the ICIP and then send it to state officials.
Gardner received no comment or commitment from the council regarding the nuclear waste plan currently under review by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.