Motorists in Plum Grove may have some new obstacles to avoid in the coming weeks. On Monday, Sept. 15, Plum Grove City Council authorized the installation of 10 speed humps/bumps in various places around town.
While the city is still working on a map to pinpoint the exact locations of the speed bumps, Mayor Lee Ann Penton-Walker told Bluebonnet News in a phone interview that three will be placed on Bohannon Road (CR 343), three will be installed on Paul Campbell Loop and others will be along Plum Grove Road and other city streets.
“These were voted on quite some time ago. We already had it settled and then the contractor who was going to install them passed away. It took a minute to redo everything after that to get them approved,” the mayor said. “I was asked to come look at the traffic on Bohannon Road. People are running stop signs and speeding. They aren’t going 50; they are going 75 down that road.”
Once the locations are finalized, the City of Plum Grove will post a map to alert motorists.
During the council meeting, Plum Grove resident Calvin Padgett, in public comments, asked the city council why they were putting in speed bumps when the roads are already in bad shape with eroding shoulders and deep potholes.
“There is not a road in this town where you can go over the speed limit. Why are we spending money on speed bumps?” Padgett asked.
Penton-Walker explained that wrecks and incidents have increased by 1,200 percent in the last eight years, around the time that construction of the Colony Ridge subdivisions began. Since that time, the number of homes in the development have caused increased wear and tear on the road, which were designed for a community of 600, not a development of 6,000 lots.
“Police are great but they can’t be everywhere. The speed bumps will physically slow people down. I am a huge fan of speed bumps,” she explained further during the phone interview.
A possible challenge to the City’s plans may come from the Texas Department of Transportation, but Walker is confident that the City will come out on top.
The purchase of a surveillance camera, which is expected to be installed at the 3-way intersection in Plum Grove, was tabled by Council. The mayor expects the purchase to be approved in an upcoming meeting. The camera will help with traffic counts and accident investigations, and will have the ability to scan license plates and do facial recognition. The camera will be monitored by police, she said.
“We have a lot of hit and runs. Over 70 percent of our issues are hit and runs. This will help the people when they file with their insurance and it will help law enforcement officers,” she said.
With no police department currently to monitor the camera, the City of Plum Grove is taking steps to reinstate its police department.
“We will have a chief of police in 3-4 weeks,” the mayor told Bluebonnet News. “The chief will have an office at city hall. Hopefully the new city council will get some grants in the future to build a police station next to the fire department. We are going to post the job and see who bites. You have to have a lot of experience and nerve to come to Plum Grove.”
The police department will be housed in Plum Grove City Hall, which is expected to be opened by Oct. 15. The old city hall was demolished during Hurricane Harvey flooding.
“We have electricity on in the building. We are just waiting for the water well to be fixed and for some sheetrock work to be done,” she said. “I think we are going to have a 50th anniversary event for the City of Plum Grove on the same day as the city hall grand opening.”
The new city hall has more state-of-the-art features, according to Penton-Walker, including Zoom capabilities that will allow council members to attend meetings remotely.
As her term in office is winding down, Penton-Walker is happy to be wrapping up some of her goals as mayor. Initially, her term was supposed to have ended in May but the May election was canceled and reset for November due to COVID-19. With Penton-Walker not seeking reelection, the only candidate for mayor is Mary Arrendell.
Three new council members will also replace outgoing members Mary Lou Graham Smith, Sharon Reed and Ronnie Culberth Jr. Danielle Enloe and Jay Clay are certainties on the council as they are running unopposed. For the third open position, the two candidates are Carly Seager and Rhonda Willis.
The mayor said that while there will be a “changing of the guard,” the new members coming onto council, with the exception of the new mayor, are in accord with each other when it comes to dealing with Colony Ridge.
“Everything that is happening now is going to be done by the new council. Nothing is going to change when I leave. Nothing. You are going to have five members who all my ideology – five – and Mary Arrendell. I don’t think Ms. Arrendell has any idea how much work is involved. She won’t be able to do anything. She is not going to be able to negotiate anything. She is not going to be able to get rid of any lawsuits, any attorneys or make the council do anything because you will have five members who are in agreement with each other,” Penton-Walker told Bluebonnet News.
Unified or not, the new council has a tough challenge ahead as the City of Plum Grove has filed a lawsuit against Colony Ridge Development for an alleged breach of contract that Penton-Walker says is related to a half-million gallons of sewer water that is allegedly being dumped into Plum Grove area ditches.
“We instructed the staff to pursue a legal remedy against Liberty County and Colony Ridge for breach of contract on this development. We have been working on this lawsuit for a while and it has nothing to do with our roads,” she said.
More information on this pending litigation will be posted in a separate article next week.