110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Jen Horton
posted Dec 7, 2012 - 6:14:51am
In DeLand, it’s not always as simple as the bottom line.
A discussion about whether to remove a traffic light at a DeLand intersection wavered between pulling heartstrings and tugging at wallets at the Dec. 3 DeLand City Commission meeting.
The first traffic light in the Spring Hill area of DeLand was installed decades ago at the corner of Clara and Voorhis avenues — at the heart of DeLand’s African-American community.
Now, the signal is old and difficult to maintain. Parts are no longer available. To replace the traffic light could cost up to $100,000.
The City Commission was considering replacing the light with a set of four-way-stop signs, for about $2,000.
From the wallet point of view, it seemed an easy matter. From the heart, though, it was anything but.
Members of the African-American community told the commission the light has both sentimental and safety value.
Volusia County Council Vice Chair Joyce Cusack lives in Spring Hill.
“It is still the only light in my community,” Cusack said. “It is important to us.”
For more than 125 years, Greater Union First Baptist Church of DeLand has stood on the corner of Clara Avenue.
Greater Union’s pastor, the Rev. Troy Bradley, told commissioners his church is busy.
“We have four churches in that area, the African American Museum right there, and a restaurant up the road,” Bradley said. “That light controls the traffic flow, and it’s important that it remains.”
Greater Union member Grady Jackson echoed Bradley’s concerns.
“We have a number of activities weekly,” Jackson said. “It is essential that light stay.”
Clarence “Bo” Davenport, retired director of public works for the City of DeLand, also appealed to the City Commission to keep Spring Hill’s traffic light.
“Look into your hearts,” Davenport urged commissioners.
Davenport explained that the intersection formerly was the business hub of DeLand’s black community, and was home to restaurants, bars, doctors’ offices and a pool hall.
City Engineer Keith Riger said the light has reached the end of its life. Riger noted the light does have additional sentimental value: It’s the only light not shared by another jurisdiction; it’s not on a county road or state road.
“It’s the only DeLand-DeLand light,” Riger said.
But it’s old, a challenge to maintain, and it will cost a lot to replace.
“I’m not telling you we can’t limp it along for a few more years,” Riger said.
Commissioner Vonzelle Johnson asked that action on the traffic light be tabled until a later date. He wanted the city to have a discussion about the light with the Spring Hill community, to try to find a solution that is both sensitive and practical.
The commission unanimously approved tabling the matter until a later date.
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