Villa Park Agrees to Signals for Crosswalk

Times Staff Writer

Facing a crowd of 400 to 500 emotional parents and students, the Villa Park City Council on Tuesday agreed to install stop signs and street lights at a crosswalk where two junior high school students have been killed since early December.

The council members, voting unanimously, also said they will post a crossing guard at the Taft and Nichols streets crosswalk and push for state approval of a traffic signal the city applied for last month.

Audience Applauds

The decision was greeted by applause from the audience, which included parents who first voiced their concern about the crosswalk three years ago. The crosswalk is located near the entrance to Villa Park High School and is also used daily by students from Cerro Villa Junior High School and two nearby elementary schools.

One of the students killed at the crosswalk, Jeff Dagley, 13, was struck by a car Dec. 2 and died several days later. The other student, Mitchell Soper, 12, died Jan. 15 from injuries suffered when he was hit by a car the previous week. At least 10 other students have been injured in the same area in the past six years.

The council's decision was reached after several parents expressed anger, sadness and frustration over the rash of injuries and fatalities at the intersection.

Gordon Soper, whose son was the second child killed at the intersection, told the council: "Victim No. 3 may be sitting in this room tonight. Please take action."

As youngsters and some parents in the audience cried, Soper added that "the first person I (ever) had to bury was my first-born son."

Linda Eiger of Villa Park, one of several parents who requested increased security at the intersection three years ago, asked council members:

"Does it take the death of a child in Villa Park for you to do something? It did.

"I have attended more funerals than I wanted to. If you can't support the need of this city, please resign."

Signalization Necessary

Soper said signalization is necessary because "nowhere in this entire community do we congregate as many young people."

Many of the parents attending the meeting picketed the street intersection earlier in the day, carrying signs that read "When we will see the light?" and "Honk if you care."

Mayor Carol Kawanami, who began the meeting with a moment of silence for the dead students, occasionally asked for quiet as members of the crowd heckled and voiced their opinions throughout the meeting.

She told the audience that the city had decided to apply for a traffic light at the intersection Nov. 19--before the first youngster was killed--and that the application was mailed to the state Dec. 27.

Staff recommendations to alleviate the problems included placing temporary stop signs until permanent signalization is installed, asking the Orange County Sheriff's Department to increase enforcement, offering traffic safety programs in the schools and halting the use of the area for band practice, which increases congestion.

The city staff also suggested that traffic engineers conduct a study of the problem.

Sheriff's Lt. Harold Schaffroth told council members that pedestrians and motorists should be educated about traffic safety.

A group of parents gave the city a petition with a list of demands for the council. Judy Beyl, who helped organize the group, said the petition contained more than 500 signatures.

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