City must maintain control of streets
Whoa, there!

That is good advice for the administration of Talladega College, which this past week was installing speed bumps on a city street without seeking or gaining permission.

While this might seem silly, it is not. The issue goes to the relationship between a historic college and the town that hosts the campus.

And let’s make this point perfectly clear: This newspaper values Talladega College and appreciates its value to this community. But, we understand and support city government’s need to control what happens to its streets.

Here’s the background:

On Friday, Oct. 12, a Talladega College student was shot and sent to UAB for surgery. In the aftermath of that incident, Dr. Billy C. Hawkins, college president, appeared before the Talladega City Council requesting that four streets be closed where they run through the campus. Dr. Hawkins’ description of the incident makes it plain he believes the shooters were not college students and by restricting access to the college, security will be enhanced.

The council took no action on the request, with some members pointing out that there are certain procedures to be followed if streets are to be closed to traffic and that would take some time. At this point, no one knows who was responsible for the shooting, or if closed streets will, in fact, help.

With no action taken on the street closing, Talladega College workers on Wednesday began installing speed breakers on Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive. They did not have permission from the city, and had not followed the city’s procedure to obtain permission.

City Manager Brian Muenger heard about the speed bumps, and went to investigate for himself. When he found the work being done, he asked that it be stopped, but was told the workers had orders to install the speed bumps.

He then wrote Dr. Hawkins a letter asking the work be stopped and the speed bump that was already in place removed. Dr. Hawkins did not reply to his letter, but Gary Lawson, director of Facilities and Management did send Muenger a letter, asking for permission to install the speed bumps “due to a recent accident on campus.”

Lawson did not acknowledge that the college was, in fact, installing the speed bumps in violation of city policy. We can only assume the “accident” he cited was, in fact, the shooting. Whatever his letter meant, the speed bump was removed and no further work was done.

We sympathize with the injured student and pray for a full recovery. We hope the shooter is quickly apprehended and punished appropriately.

But, the shooting is a separate issue from control of the streets. Many local residents live around the college and use those streets to travel from home to work and various other places.

At times, those residents could need emergency attention. Fires might break out. A citizen (or a student) could be injured or fall sick and need emergency medical care. Closed streets and speed bumps will slow emergency response times. Lives and property could be at risk because of these policies and the city would face whatever consequences might then arise.

That places responsibility for the streets squarely with city government.

© 2012