February 3, 2005
The Jackson Township Supervisors held a special meeting to discuss traffic & vehicle safety, accidents and any other concerns at 10:00 a.m. at the Jackson Township Municipal Building. Members present were Supervisors David Bracken, Bob Stephens and Bruce Baker along with Secretary-Treasurer / Manager Dave Hirko and Police Chief Robert Fatula. The meeting was called to order by David Bracken, Chairman, with the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag.
Board Roll Call was taken with all three Supervisors present.
Public Comments Concerning Agenda Items:
Delores Kimbel asked where Sunflower Lane was on the Reportable Accident Report. Supervisor Baker answered up by Dulashaws.
Discussion with Chief Robert Fatula representing the Jackson Township Police Department on traffic & vehicle safety, accidents any other concerns.
Will Michaels said he felt there were some "hot spots" in the Township including one at the Landfill Entrance. He said some trucks may have a problem being there is a "blind spot" there. He also said that the Township could use old police cruisers and park them in various areas of the Township with a silhouette to reduce speeding. Chief Fatula said he has seen that technique used mainly on Interstates that are heavily traveled. Michaels asked if he could do that down by his property. Fatula said it probably wouldnít be a good idea but added if he wanted to have it parked on his private property and not by the road, that was ok. Fatula said we get a lot of complaints on small streets and usually itís someone from that area. He said if you can get the license number from that car, we can personally see the guy and issue a warning and that has proven to be very effective. Michaels then commented on a school bus that goes down there about 4:00 and his son told her she needs to slow down. Fatula said he contacts Jerry Hill who is the Manager of the Bus Company and he always takes care of any problems relayed to him. Michaels & Fatula discussed speeding traffic on side roads and how having a policeman sit on the roads occasionally and write a few citations can help alleviate the problem.
Supervisor Stephens complimented the Chief & the Police Department on checking the business doors at night and also the 24 hour coverage throughout the Township. He said he can only address the information he has and he tries to go back over the figures and see where we might be going in the future and if it is a problem. He said in the last five years, the Police Department Budget has doubled and in reviewing police reports he noted that in 2002 there were 55 accidents, in 2003 there were 103 and in 2004, 165 accidents. He commented that he appreciated the Chief taking the time to make up the Reportable Accidents Form but there seems to be a discrepancy between the number of 78 accidents on the report as compared to the number of 165 that the Township has. He said he didnít know what the difference is and thatís a question mark. In conjunction with that he noted that citations in 2003 were 1,005 and dropped to 582 in 2004. He said he was aware the Police were not patrolling 22 as much but you can see in a few short years that accidents went up 300% and there is a 43% decrease in the number of citations and there could be some kind of correlation. He made several suggestions including that there be a map of the Township with pins in it for each accident that happened and a separate map showing pins where citations were issued, it may give us the opportunity to see areas we might patrol on. He said there were several bad accidents on Route 271 last year.
Fatula said he would like to address one issue at a time. First of all he said there was no discrepancy in the number of accidents in 2004 and the reportable accidents that he listed and the 300% increase in accidents. He said the 300% increase in accidents is attributed to the Supervisors making our Police Department big enough to do more regular police work. He said we can now do things that we didnít have the time or manpower to do before. Addressing the discrepancy, he said these are reportable accidents and now we also do non-reportable accidents and thatís why there is a difference. He said the State does not accept non-reportable accidents and a non-reportable accident is a vehicle thatís towed or thereís injuries. These are the "so-called" fender-benders but heís seen cars that look worse than some the State considers reportable accidents. He added that now the Police Department has more time, they can do non-reportable accidents for the people that they never used to do before because they didnít have the manpower. He said a reportable accident is a six page form that he with experience takes 2 Ĺ hours to do and a non-reportable accident is basic information which takes a Ĺ hour to do. He said itís not an increase but giving the people more.
Stephens said he understood was Fatula was saying but the facts still remain that in 2002 there 55 reportable accidents or non-reportable but the total remains the same and we have a 300% increase irregardless as to whether they are reportable or non-reportable. Fatula said if he had the power to tell people not to get in accidents, he would do it but you canít control that. Stephens agreed and accidents happen but weíre trying to get some direction and if we see an increasing amount, we have to take appropriate steps and if there is a problem, we need to address and correct it. He said there was nothing more important than the safety and welfare of the citizens of this Township and having an increase in accidents reflects on their safety, health and welfare. He said realistically this was a fact-finding thing and he didnít feel we would get all of our answers today and he was prepared to request another meeting a month later so we have time to reflect on this and look into the situation further and come up with suggestions to make things for the betterment. Fatula said Stephens is saying a 300% increase in accidents and he feels there is a decrease in accidents from what it was. Stephens said he could only address the figures reported to the Township. Fatula said at one time they had over 400 accidents they had to address and it would be nothing to have 5 to 8 fatals a year. He said we donít have as many fatals or accidents now. He said they had a speed program on Route 22 where they cut down on the accidents. He said last year there was an horrendous winter which caused more accidents and itís a multitude of things. He said the State Police have over 4 or 5 thousand police and they canít control it because itís going to happen as youíll have high speed highways and 25 mph roads and theyíre all going to have accidents.
Stephens said he was looking for alternatives to bring it back the other way if at all possible and we need to look at everything possible to accomplish that. He added if we arenít going to do anything about it, weíre not going to correct the problem. Fatula said they could try everything too but you canít control accidents. He then said they used to have a map with pins on it which reflected reportable & non-reportable accidents and deaths but it was so filled up there wasnít any room to put more pins in it and if anybody was a Supervisor back then, they seen it. Stephens said a different color pin could be put on the map to represent 25 or 10 or some other arbitrary number. Fatula said he wasnít using any excuse but he was saying he got rid of that because the accidents decreased so much and we would target those areas as youíre suggesting and we still do. He said the only difference is that now he doesnít have to do it on the pin board because he knowís that there arenít that many accidents. He said if you look at the reportable accident list, half of that is so sporadic and we donít have one place in the Township causing all the accidents. He said if there was one place in the Township that had 75 accidents and everywhere else had 3, naturally we would concentrate on it. He pointed out that the streets on the report listing Dishong Road and Sunflower Lane for example. . . .they donít represent that exact spot but are reference points. He said the accident could have happened 500 feet or 1000 feet down the road from the street referenced.
Stephens sand Mr. Hirko and he had talked about some other items you may want to consider. He said Dave and the Supervisors should all have a telephone number if they would want to call the police on various cell phones. Fatula said call 9-1-1. Chairman Bracken said thatís all you need to call. Fatula said if itís a non-emergency number they would know that too. Stephens said in a dire emergency he would be sure that the 9-1-1 calls would be inundated with many calls and you may only have a 15 to 20 minute time limit. He said the Township Manager and the 3 Supervisors should have a way of getting a hold of policeman who is on duty 24 hours and thatís something he would like him to consider. He said another thing is the Police Department should have an answering machine in the Police Office that would reflect emergency and non-emergency calls. He said for emergency calls, they should call direct to 9-1-1 and non-emergency callers should be able to leave a message there. Bracken said you can call 9-1-1 at any time and leave a message for any officer and that officer will get that message the same as if it were back there on that phone. He said we have a non-emergency number that you can call 9-1-1 and theyíll get them a lot quicker than you will on a cell phone. He said thereís back-up sites around the County and he feels theyíre really equipped to handle most emergencies. He feels itís well taken care of and there shouldnít be any emergency calls coming back there. Stephens said under the Emergency Management Plan we have a direct participation to direct orders and in the event that the 9-1-1 office is flooded with calls we need to get out and take the appropriate action. Fatula suggested that we should buy all of our policemen cell phones. He said we only have one cell phone we use now. Stephens why the officer on duty couldnít be the one using it. Fatula said itís easy for you to sit and say that we should carry cell phones. He said a policeman has so much to carry now with his bag, ADD monitor, walkie-talkie, split board, pinch pads, camera and portable Breathalyzer. Stephens said weíre only talking a cell phone. Fatula said everything is only "that big". Bracken said thereís a lot of policemen in the Township that you canít get through to them on a cell phone. Fatula said they used to have an answering machine and people would call and leave messages and then if there wasnít a policeman in the office for seven hours and when they would respond, the person would tell them it took them seven hours to get there. He said we and 9-1-1 publish the non-emergency line. He said as fast as they pick it up, theyíre going to hit a button and youíre going to have us and you couldnít ask for a better system than that. Stephens said he was only asking that he consider these things over the next month.
Stephens said in addition he felt the Township should know ahead of time what the work schedules are, what roads theyíre going to patrol and for approximately how long. He said heís received complaints on excessive speeding on Loraine Road, Mile Hill Road, Dishong Mountain Road, Swigle Mountain Road as well as Adams Street. Fatula said he could probably add 30 more to that to be honest. Stephens said we needed to take these complaints and look at what we can do to facilitate trying to decrease the number of accidents and if it means going up with citations and if we can do it with warnings, he feels thatís the way to go. Fatula said he didnít feel it was up to Stephens to tell him when to issue warnings and thatís illegal so he knows. He said the Township is now divided in two sections, East & West and when the guys would come in they would do a daily report saying they were on certain roads in certain hours. He said the problem is by asking them to do that, he created a monster because they couldnít do their job because they were typing in all of the paperwork. He said they shouldnít be spending too much time in the office. He said he realized it was requiring too much work and he needed to free up these guys on stuff that is immaterial and let them do police work instead of filling up their days with useless information.
Stephens then wanted to address citations and said according to his records there were 21 accidents on William Penn Avenue which reflects the second highest percentage comparable to Route 22 and we already have some coverage by State Police. He asked if the number of citations on William Penn Avenue reflected the number of accidents and asked if they reflected a number similar to the number of citations issued on Route 22. Fatula said no and added that theyíre the two major thorough fares through the Township. Stephens said he meant percentage wise and maybe we need to get out and direct a "lookie see" at whatís going on on Route 271 and the number of accidents occurring there. He said maybe we need to get out and patrol Route 271 and do whateverís necessary by having a police car sitting down there just like they have on the ramp at 22. Fatula said the citations show that and if there are more accidents on 271 and 22, thatís what theyíre doing. . .targeting those areas. Stephens said you have 27 accidents and not citations but supposing you have 27 citations. He asked if you had 20 accidents but only have 10 citations that would tell us it was 50% vs. 100%. Fatula said common sense would tell you that you have more traffic on the main roads thus leading to more accidents. Supervisor Baker said the problem is even though there may have been more accidents on Route 271, that doesnít mean they violated the law. They could have been human error or poor judgement so that may mean you couldnít write as many citations as there are accidents. Stephens said he wasnít saying that but you should have by far more citations than you do accidents. Baker said you could but doesnít mean there would be less accidents. Stephens said if human error was the case, maybe we should look at more stop signs, more caution signs or something else and it could be our fault and we need find the solution to correct it. Baker said if you have a stop sign and the motorist is going the legal speed limit, what more can you do. Fatula said you fill the road sup with all kinds of signs and youíre not going to stop it. He said some people do not read signs and a good example is where the State put up big signs saying "Targeted Area" and people donít pay attention to it. He said it was his job to think about these things and if there was a problem, heíd target it or if we need something, Iíll get a Supervisor and I feel very fortunate with the three Supervisors here cooperating with us 100%.
Fatula said it was pointed out about the reduction in the number of citations. He said when the Police Department arrests someone for speeding, they have strict orders that you do not write an citation unless youíre sure that person is doing that speed. He said he was a firm believer in enforcement of speeding and other traffic violations which has a lot to do with accidents but thereís some we canít control. He said we just had a terrible summer with rain and he didnít want his guys running with the rain when they could be going up to 100 mph to catch someone. He said itís safer to run with two cars and we want to help and help reduce the accidents and not be a part of the problem by being out there doing it. He added that the police have had multiple vehicle problems and two Vascar units down and added with the weather, thatís what happened with the citations. He said if you looked at past years and speeding citations issued it should tell you that a great effort was made to reduce speeders. He said weíre not looking for those 5 or 10 mph over but violators or the ones going high speed. He said he used to receive complaints about them sitting up there on the ramp but theyíre other places as well and you just donít know it. Itís just that weíre more visible there on the ramp. He said the complaints asked why they were sitting there and why donít you let the State Police handle it. He said many people in the Township use Route 22 and in the summer itís nothing to have people clocked going over 100 mph several times a week and how can someone in this Township say that they donít want us to stop that guy going over 100 mph even if theyíre wife or kids travel that road. Stephens said again about the increase in number of accidents in the Township. Fatula said that there wasnít and that you see it on paper but what you see is the non reportable accidents for the people. He added if you want the real accidents they were on the reportable accident list. He said the non reportable ones were never done before so they didnít get included in the figures. Stephens asked when that started. Fatula said it was either the end of last year or the first of this year. He said if someone would drive out on the road and get hit and then drive away, they didnít write the accident up in the past saying that was their problem. He said now they take down all the information for the individual so they can take it back to their insurance company and itís because you guys gave us the capability to do this and provide the service.
Stephens said in 2003 there were 327 accidents and further down it lists 103 which would determine the difference between reportable and non reportable. Fatula said he felt this was turning into a "head hunting" thing here and it was supposed to be informative. Stephens said he was hoping it was and thatís why he wanted to take a month to give his input and then come back and discuss this at a later date and get some positive thinking and positive results and address it. Bracken asked Bob what he was hunting. Stephens said he wasnít hunting for anything but he was going according to the figures that there was an increase in accidents in the last two years. He said even just looking at the non-reportable accidents there has been an increase so the issue of reportable vs. non-reportable should have no bearing on it. He said there was a 300% increase in reportable accidents in two years time. Bracken said it was explained to you. He said even if it was weíre going over and over and over again and it was explained to you and he didnít know how plainer it could be.
Stephens said he was suggesting that they patrol the streets and roads in the Township setting up in different areas in the Township catching people where the most accidents were such as Rt. 271 to reduce the number of accidents and do whateverís necessary in the most amicable way. Fatula said there are just certain things in life you have to live with that you canít change and accidents are one of them. Stephens said then why do we need a Police Department. Fatula answered you donít. He said a Supervisor told him once that the Fire Company & Police Department ainít worth a nickel. . . . until you need them and he added that thereís a lot of people who need them every day. Stephens asked why are we patrolling the highways if it doesnít have any bearing on safety. Fatula said itís inevitable that there will be accidents. Stephens said we need to do what we can to control the accidents and he said he knows that the most contributing factor in accidents was excessive speed and DUI. Baker said you could sit there all day and at 3:00 you leave and at 3:05 an accident happens, how do you control that. He added that these guys are patrolling. Bracken said they patrol all the roads of the Township and if youíd get out there and see them youíd know. Baker said they may hit Lorain Road at 3 and 7 and the person who works a second shift may not see them out there. Fatula said where we have 2 full time policemen and several part timers, the State Police have thousands and their accidents also increased. He said New York City has 36,000 policemen but they canít stop the crime. He said he agrees on doing the best to help the situation but itís not necessarily going to help decrease them. Baker said he felt was Stephens was after, the guys are truly doing right now. He mentioned a situation like Route 422 and Cardiff Road being a bad accident place and if we had a place like that, we would have to do something to help prevent accidents like they did such as putting rumble strips and stop signs in. Fatula said we donít have one area where thereís constant accidents.
Stephens said he felt we needed to pin-point them on a map to help solve that. Fatula said we can put a map up and pin-point whatever you want and heíd be glad to help out there. Bracken said theyíre all in the computer. Fatula said theyíre going to do all of their reportable accidents on-line now and the State does it now and this will help pin-point certain problem areas. Stephens wanted to address Brackens comment about what he was hunting for. He said he was hunting for a solution to a possible problem and suggested we all work together including the Board, Township Manager and Police Department based on some of the complaints theyíve been getting and we need to address it and the increase. Bracken asked what all complaints he was talking about. Stephens answered speeding on roads. Bracken said thatís daily and we do address those problems. Stephens said if we had a map, we could pinpoint the accidents and citations. Fatula said he could put a map over here in the meeting room and every time thereís an accident he would come over and put a pin in it and he had no problem with that. Stephens said and what about the citations on a separate map. Fatula said no. Stephens said thatís the criteria and that would tell us if we are giving citations in the problem areas. Fatula said he didnít feel there was a problem area and itís easy to say, letís pinpoint every citation but in a normal year there are a thousand or better citations and how would this help being most have nothing to do with the accidents. He said the majority are right there on the ramp and yet when was the last time there was an accident on the ramp. He added that 80% of accidents are human error and the other 20% is weather, speed, etc.
Stephens asked if citations werenít important, why are we keeping track of them. Manager Hirko said itís not that theyíre not important but he felt they were talking about the map. He added that we know what the citations are by general categories but not necessarily by specific addresses or locations. Stephens said it would give us an idea of where weíre spending our time. Baker said we should "mull" this around for a month and then decide if we need to get together at that time. Fatula asked what it was they wanted him to think about. Baker replied it would all be in the minutes. Fatula said he would do whateverís possible to give the Supervisors what they wanted but he do something about a problem where there isnít one and added he wasnít aware of one area or intersection where there were always accidents. Baker said one of the biggest causes of accidents is on a day like today and a "clipper" comes in and snow squalls cover the roads and catches people off guard. Stephens says 75% of them are excessive speed. Fatula said he knows what it used to be like with a lot of accidents and he didnít feel it was like that anymore. Stephens said itís the responsibility of the Supervisors to assume responsibility for direction and he felt itís the Chiefs responsibility to help them any way he could and rely on his expertise. Fatula said he was correct but he didnít see him as much as he did the other Supervisors but heís sure the other Supervisors can verify that there wasnít a time where they asked him to do something that he didnít drop everything and do it. Stephens said he never heard any complaints about that. Fatula said you can be sure if thereís something you need here, Iím going to do my best to do it. Bracken said his comment was that weíre Supervisors and weíre not law enforcement personnel and we didnít go to school to be in law enforcement and we have no right to try and enforce the law. He said we hire a Chief of Police to handle that and if complaints come in or we have trouble spots, we give them to the Chief and he handles it. He said we have no right whatsoever sticking our noses into law enforcement and itís up to the police. He said in fact, itís illegal for us to stick our nose in and try and enforce the law and he feels our police and fire departments have done an admirable job. He said heís been in this a long time and he knows if thereís a complaint, it will be handled. Fatula said if people are having problems in certain areas, have the people call him. He said if they donít know of the problem, they canít do anything.
Motion Baker, second Bracken to authorize the Manager to secure all services necessary to complete the work to move the two poles on Adams Avenue. The motion was opened up to public comment. Clair Michaels asked if that were the only two places in the Township that has problems. Baker said that was what was brought to our attention. Michaels said down on his road there a few trees that should be moved that are pretty close to the road. Bracken said if theyíre on the right-of-way they would just take them out. He said usually they talk to the property owners and tell them that theyíre a safety hazard first. A vote was then taken. Vote-3 yes.
Clair Michaels mentioned that where the garbage trucks turn in, itís getting to be a pretty big hole and itís on the State Road. Bracken said we would call the State to fix it. He said the State would tell you theyíre going to be digging that road down about 17 feet. Michaels said this is why they sometimes roll over there. Hirko mentioned about lights along various roads on Route 22 and said that once Route 22 reconstruction was complete, we could address the various intersections and streets by possibly adding street lights as there were in other parts of the Township.
Chairman Bracken announced that the Board of Supervisors next scheduled meeting will be held on Thursday, February 24, 2005 at 7:00 pm at the Jackson Township Municipal Building.
Motion Baker, second Stephens to adjourn the meeting at 11:10 am. Vote-3 yes.
David M. Hirko, Secretary