The Pima Town Hall was filled to capacity Tuesday night as county residents voiced their displeasure over the closure of 800 West. The road was closed because the Town of Pima was spending roughly $20,000 a year in maintaining that road. In order to pave it, materials alone would be a minimum of $100,000.
County resident Paul Deems was the first to address the council regarding the closure. Deems said he gathered almost 200 signatures from the county residents who felt unhappy with the closure of the road. County residents didn’t get any notice about the closure, he said. Also, he said he felt the county residents assisted the Town of Pima in taxes and through Census participation. Instead of closing the road, Deems suggested that the town put up a sign saying “Unmaintained road. Use at your own risk.”
“The closure of the road was really not in the best interest of this town,” Deems said. “I think a lot of people are extremely upset with the fact of what has taken place and the inconvenience that is now placed on us.”
On the other side of the fence was Becki Daley.
Daley, a resident of 450 South for 20 years, said her community has had trouble controlling drivers’ speeding in the area for years. Even after installing a stop sign in the community, people weren’t stopping or slowing down. However, after 800 West was closed, she said she saw changes in the traffic going through her community.
“A few weeks ago we had noticed that there was less traffic and we noticed that the speed had slowed down extremely,” said Daley. “We started watching, we realized the semis had quit going through our neighborhood, we noticed the speed had remained slow.”
Lewis told the crowd that a traffic study is currently underway and the council will decide the next course of action regarding the road. However, at this time the plan is to have gates installed at the road within 10 days — gates that will be opened in case of emergencies and events. Concrete barricades were placed across 800 West because regular construction barricades were vandalized, torn down, and broken so motorists could drive through them.
The town manager also told those watching at Town Hall and via Facebook Live that town staff have timed how long it takes commuters to get to various location using Main Street and 800 West. In some cases the time difference was a matter of seconds, to a matter of minutes longer for motorists using both 1200 West and Main Street.
Lewis said a notice of the study was written in the council meeting’s agenda, which was posted before the meeting.
“Whether we decide to open the road permanently, close it permanently, or set times on it, whatever the counsel ends up deciding with the police chief, public works director, and myself, those gates will be there when we do have to maintain the road,” Lewis said.
The road is not wide enough for a grader to safely do the job while people are driving so the gates will be closed while the road is being maintained, he said.
The ongoing traffic study has shown there’s been less traffic flowing through the residential areas around 800 West and more traffic using Main Street, Lewis said.
More traffic on Main Street is actually a good thing, Lewis said. With the added traffic, the town could potentially obtain more government funding because Main Street could become classified as a main traffic artery.
The road will be maintained and the end goal for the town is to get the road paved, Lewis said. However, the study has to be completed before funding can be obtained. There are at least 45 more days left in the study, he added.
After the meeting, councilman Jesus Cabrera said he has not made up his mind about the issue. He wasn’t present when the study was proposed to the council.
“We are trying to make that road safe for everyone to use,” Cabrera said. “Everybody who lives in the town and surrounding area is important to us.”
Lewis also addressed Deems’ comments on the Census. He explained people who live near Pima, but in unincorporated Graham County, generate money for Graham County, not the Town of Pima. He also pointed out that county residents’ property tax money also does not benefit Pima.