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Stop sign at Center and Second

April 18, 2002|By DARREN SIMON

Staff Writer

WESTMORLAND — Weeks after a girl was killed when she was struck near Center and First streets by a tractor-trailer rig, the City Council here Wednesday took steps to try to prevent future tragedies.

By a unanimous vote, the council directed city staffers to place a stop sign on Center and Second streets to slow traffic.

That stop sign could be up as early as today, and those driving on Center will have about a week grace period before the Police Department starts to issue fines for violations.


The council also called on staffers to have light poles placed on both sides at First and Second streets along Center to illuminate the street.

Center became a city focus following the recent death of Jenny Cellis, 6, who was crossing near Center and First when she was hit by a big rig.

According to Police Chief Fred Beltan, Jenny was the first person he can recall in his more than 20-year tenure in the city killed on Center.

A memorial of flowers remains on Forrester Road, the county road that becomes Center when it enters the city at First Street.

While Center is a city street, it is as a main artery for thousands of trucks that daily make their way along Forrester into and out of the Imperial Valley.

In voting to make safety improvements to Center, city officials said some action must be taken in lieu of rerouting truck traffic — a move Mayor Larry Ritchie said he wants to continue to pursue with the county Board of Supervisors.

Ritchie has taken his case to the board, and on Tuesday Supervisor Gary Wyatt, who represents Westmorland, said the county needs to look at Forrester Road.

Still, Ritchie told the crowd at Wednesday's meeting, "We are not going to drop the ball on this."

He added later, "This is not a problem that is going to go away."

He said the city has to take some action to slow traffic until the county and city can work out some arrangement on the truck traffic.

"We need the traffic to come down a main thoroughfare," he said, not Center Street.

As the council discussed the issue, tractor-trailer rigs could be heard from the council chambers rumbling along Center toward Forrester or Highway 86.

Outside City Hall, which is on Center, there are no lights between First and Second streets. There are light poles near First that shed an orange glow over the park at City Hall. However, that light is pointed away from Center.

As the meeting continued two youths crossed Center on skateboards. Dressed in dark clothing, they were difficult to see.

Ritchie said the plan is to place the four light poles over Center to ensure truckers and motorists can see those trying to cross the street.

>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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