November 28, 2014

Elyria
Flurries
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Sixth Street residents upset over reckless driving in EHS lot

ELYRIA — Auditions for the latest “Fast and Furious” street-racing movie sequel aren’t taking place in the Elyria High School parking lot, which comes as a surprise to Sixth Street residents furious that their reckless driving complaints are getting nowhere fast.

Sixth Street resident Betty Avonti stands in front of the exit from the parking lot at Elyria High School. (CT photo by Bruce Bishop.)

Sixth Street resident Betty Avonti stands in front of the exit from the parking lot at Elyria High School. (CT photo by Bruce Bishop.)

Residents say students regularly disregard the parking lot stop sign where Sixth Street dead-ends as they make left turns east onto Sixth Street. That’s led to numerous near-collisions where westbound residents narrowly missed being hit head-on or swerved to avoid broad-siding exiting cars.

“It’s just nuts,” said resident Peter Aldrich, who said he swerved to miss broadsiding an exiting car about two weeks ago. “They don’t pay any attention.”

Aldrich said his near accident occurred around 10:30 a.m., but fellow neighbors said the most dangerous time is 1:30 to 3 p.m. when school ends.

“For that 20 to 30 minutes a day, it’s helter-skelter down here,” said resident Jay Diedrick, who said he’s witnessed two crashes in which students who stopped at the stop sign were rear-ended.

In one stretch Friday afternoon observed by The Chronicle-Telegram, tires screeched as about 25 out of 30 cars — including a cruiser from Whittguard Security Services, the school’s security company — failed to heed the stop sign.

Resident Tim Barnes said that in the winter, cars sometimes spin out in icy conditions and strike his curb.

Barnes said cars often come out two at a time and drive on both sides of the two-way street.

“I just sit on my front porch if I’m not doing anything and watch it,” Barnes said. “It gets kind of entertaining.”

Resident Betty Avonti said she’s been complaining since the parking lot opened in 2008.

School officials say it’s a police problem, while police say it’s a school problem, Avonti said.

“In between, nothing gets done,” she said. “Everybody tells me they’re going to check into it. They’ve been checking into it for three years.”

Police Chief Duane Whitely said Sunday he was unaware of a problem, but Kevin Brubaker, deputy safety services director, said he witnessed cars running the stop sign last week. Brubaker had been called to the block over delayed trash pickups due to students parking, although legally, in front of homes and blocking access for garbage collectors.

Brubaker said a rear-end loading truck will be used in the future to collect rubbish, and he will ask Elyria High School Principal Darren Conley today to warn students to obey the stop sign.

Brubaker said he will also speak to police about stationing an officer by the stop sign to discourage reckless driving noting there are young children who live on the block.

“There’s huge concern that a child could get hit,” Brubaker said. “We are aware of the situation there and will be addressing it.”

Elyria Superintendent Paul Rigda said a new, 200-space parking lot will be opening in the fall, which should substantially reduce the number of cars who park in the Sixth Street lot. Rigda said the Sixth Street lot will primarily be used for overflow parking during special events such as basketball games or wrestling matches.

“Traffic there is going to be minimal,” he said.

A new lot would be good news to resident Denise Newsome, who said she has to plan her travel around when school gets out.

“We’re thanking God when school ends and regretting when it starts,” she said.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.