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    Some see need to replace signs

    The county plucked the stop signs on Wilcox Road near Largo, but some residents worry that a child could be hit.

    By ERIC STIRGUS

    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 22, 2001


    LARGO -- It was a reflex, something that Edward "BeBe" Hobson had done countless times.

    Hobson stopped his car at the intersection of Wilcox Road and 125th Street N, waiting for oncoming traffic. Suddenly, he recalled, a vehicle came so close behind his car that Hobson was sure he would be rear-ended.

    Didn't that person see the stop sign? Hobson wondered.

    "Wait a minute," Hobson thought to himself. "The stop sign is gone."

    The stop sign was one of three removed in December from Wilcox Road by county workers, who are widening the thoroughfare between Ulmerton and Pine roads, the length of about 31/2 football fields.

    Many residents and community leaders don't like it.

    Hobson, who oversees a Christian youth group with a facility on Wilcox, worries that a motorist will speed along the road and hit a child. Hobson, statewide urban division coordinator of Young Life, voiced his concerns to sheriff's deputies who patrol the area. Similarly concerned, a neighborhood organization wrote Pinellas County Commissioner Karen Seel, who represents the area, to see if the signs can be reinstalled.

    "It would make it easier for elderly people and children to get across," said Glenn Claytor, executive director of Dansville Neighborhood Development Corp., a community organization that is working with the county on improvements in the area.

    Seel said Wednesday that she wanted to wait until the work on Wilcox was finished before suggesting that the signs be put back.

    "I understand their concerns," she said. "I'd like to see what is going on. If there are still some problems, we can look at speed humps or putting the stop signs back."

    County workers began a $1.8-million project last year to bury utility lines, and install water and sewer lines, sidewalks and fire hydrants in Dansville. Eventually, the county would like to see new homes built on vacant land in the area. The plans, seven years in the making, were prompted by a tornado that caused considerable damage in the neighborhood. After the tornado, county officials surveyed the area and realized that Dansville lacked some basics like sidewalks and street lights.

    One of the first elements of the plan was to improve Wilcox Road, the commercial strip in Dansville. The plan for Wilcox was to make it a road for heavy traffic, according to county officials. Stop signs would discourage such use, officials said.

    "The idea is, Wilcox Road is a collector road and we don't want to invite stop-and-go traffic on a collector road," said project manager Jim Pleso, who works in the county's Public Works Department.

    Area residents said they didn't know that.

    Beth Gawlowicz hopes the county reconsiders. She is program manager of Ridgecrest Community Services, which provides after-school services and other activities for young people in the same building used by Young Life. Dozens of children come to the building every day, she said, and some do not watch carefully for oncoming vehicles.

    "It's definitely dangerous," she said. "People just fly through here. It's scary."

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