Signs warning motorists about speed limits in Belgrade’s many school zones have grown larger and more wordy, but a relatively recent addition has taken the signs from merely verbose to downright confusing, a resident told the city council Monday.
A portion of the signs warns that “fines double,” resident Mark Roemer said. But the “fines double” portion of the signage indicates that fines double from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., not that the speed zone itself is only in effect during those hours.
The result is that some motorists think the speed limit is 15 mph all the time, not just from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Roemer said.
“When they added the ‘fines double eight to five’, people got confused,” he said. “Some people are driving 12 mph at 6 o’clock at night.”
Some members of the council agreed.
“You get people going 15 mph at 7:30 a.m.,” Mayor Russ Nelson said. “It’s frustrating.”
“But it’s only frustrating for ten seconds, Councilman Mark Criner noted.
City Manager Joe Menicucci said the “fines double” language was added to the signs because City Judge Michele Snowberger refused to enforce double fines without such warnings. The signs are confusing because there is a jumble of warnings attached to the school-zone signposts.
“It’s confusing how many signs you have on one post,” he said. “It became necessary to add ‘fines double’ because of court decisions.”
Criner said he understands the confusion and suggested separating the “fines double” language from the “8 a.m. to 5 p.m.” language. But Roemer suggested an even simpler solution.
“You should put up a sign that says the speed limit is 25 except between eight and five,” he suggested. “I’d like to get something real simple.”
Menicucci said he would ask Chief of Police E.J. Clark and Public Works Director Steve Klotz to look at the signage and “figure out a way” to simplify them.
“There was no confusion until the courts said you have to have a sign that said ‘fines double,’” he said. “The judge here has indicated she wants it on the signs before she will assess a double fine.”
In other business Monday:
• The council adopted a resolution of intention to rezone a parcel of land along Alaska South Road as Highway Business District (B2). The land owner requested the change in anticipation of a new Interstate 90 interchange being built east of Belgrade.
• The council adopted a resolution of intention to annex a maintenance building at the Gallatin Readiness Center (National Guard armory) east of the city. The request was made by the Montana Department of Military Affairs to provide water and sewer services to the maintenance building directly southeast of the armory, which already is annexed, according to Phil Parini, an engineer working with the military.
• The council approved a new, 2-year contract with Richard Ramler for city attorney services.
• The council approved its annual performance review of City Manager Joe Menicucci (see related story), and offered him a 3-year contract. They also approved a 2 percent pay hike for him.