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Speed limit ordinance hits snag

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HANCOCK COUNTY — Hancock County Commissioners may increase school zone speed limits in rural parts of the county, but they disagree on the time frame motorists should comply with.

Hancock County Commissioners decided to draft an ordinance that would increase the speed limit to 30 mph for school zones in unincorporated parts of the county. Currently, the speed limit is 25 mph, but state law says the minimum should be 30 mph for rural roads.

The change would affect Eastern Hancock School Corp.; Southern Hancock’s Sugar Creek and Brandywine elementary schools; Mt. Comfort Elementary School; and Zion Lutheran School.

Streets within city limits – including those in front of all of Greenfield’s schools – would not be changed because county commissioners do not have jurisdiction over city streets.

Commissioners first talked about speed limits in school zones Feb. 5 and asked county engineer Joe Copeland – who had been studying all speed limits in the county – to come with a proposal based on the state minimum for rural streets at 30 mph.

The speed limit on CR 200S in front of Doe Creek Middle School would remain 45 mph, Copeland said, because the rural school was built away from the county road and has a separate drive.

While commissioners agree the speed limit for the other rural schools should increase to match state law, they don’t agree on the time of day motorists should slow down.

Copeland suggests the 30 mph speed limit should only be 7 am. to 9 a.m., and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on school days. That, he says, matches the times parents and children are arriving and leaving school.

But Commissioner President Derek Towle said delays in school opening times and changes to school calendars can fluctuate. He wants the rules to be similar to Greenfield’s, when motorists must slow down 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Commissioners Brad Armstrong and Tom Stevens sided more with Copeland.

“I really like the restricted hours, and I think the 7 to 9 and 2 to 4 covers that,” Stevens said.

Armstrong suggests as a compromise that caution lights be installed with the new speed limit signs. When the lights are flashing, he says, it will remind motorists to slow down and obey the 30 mph limit.

Copeland said he would look into the cost of the caution lights. In the meantime, county attorney Ray Richardson will be asked to draft an ordinance that may be approved at a meeting next month.

Towle voted against asking Richardson to write the ordinance based on his views about the time periods the speed limit would be enforced.

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