ST. PETE BEACH — City commissioners have denied a recommendation to remove more than 40 “Children at Play” signs scattered along residential neighborhood streets throughout St. Pete Beach.
Public Works Director Mike Clarke brought the matter to the attention of city officials after he was made aware of Pinellas County’s policy on such signs last month. The county’s environment and infrastructure office had released a general-information flyer calling the signs “deceiving and ineffective.”
“CHILDREN AT PLAY signs tend to create a false sense of security for parents and children who believe the signs provide an added degree of protection,” the county document states. “In fact, motorists, particularly local ones, actually pay little attention to them. The use of the CHILDREN AT PLAY and similar signs … have long been discouraged because these signs suggest to parents and small children that playing in or beside the roadway is acceptable.”
The county notes that the signs are not recognized by the state or the Federal Highway Administration and the county does not install them.
Clarke asked City Manager Alex Rey in an email whether the city should align with the county policy or “let it go.” He said the Public Works Department recommended aligning with the county and for legal and consistency reasons, removing the signs.
At a May 25 commission meeting, Rey said the county’s rationale for the removing children-at-play signs is “that it makes children and parents feel safer than they really should feel being in the streets, which are not designed to be played on. They feel it is more of a risk issue than if we didn’t have the signs.”
Mayor Al Johnson noted, “I’m at real issue with them saying these (signs) make people feel comfortable being in the street and that’s more risky. That whole attitude to me is crazy.”
But Rey advised, “These are not official signs, so it’s really not a violation when someone doesn’t slow down, because children are at play. They are simply informational signs.”
Rey told commissioners, “You have complete latitude. We can ignore the county’s request and say, ‘Thank you very much, but no, we want to keep them,’ or give me your thoughts about what we do with this.”
Commissioner Ward Friszolowski wondered if anyone pays attention to the signs. “It seems like they have been up in all communities for decades and decades and decades,” he said. “It’s kind of like the thing you pass by and you don’t pay attention to it anymore. I hate to say that.”
However, Friszolowski noted there are more people out walking now than ever before, with strollers and dogs. “If you’re driving fast on our neighborhood streets, it’s not a good thing,” he said. “I don’t care if there is a sign out there or not. Anybody who’s got any common sense ought to be going slow.”
Commissioner Mark Grill said speeding a common theme in every community. He suggested leaving the signs in place. “We have to look comprehensively what are we going to do, and I know we have plans, but in immediate terms we have to get people to slow down. Speeding is everywhere and we all have bad examples.”
Commissioners were satisfied when Clarke noted that “at some point, the signs will be removed because of attrition, they’ll just age out and we just won’t put a sign back up again. At some point the sign has lived its time, it’s no longer recognizable, it looks bad, so we just take those out one by one.”
Qualifying for special election begins
City Clerk Amber LaRowe noted the city will hold a special municipal election on Tuesday, Aug. 24, to select a commissioner for District 2, a seat currently held by Commissioner Mark Grill. Grill was chosen to fill out the term vacated by Doug Izzo, who left the city to serve as executive director of the Englewood, Florida, Chamber of Commerce.
The qualification period began on June 1 and ends at 12 p.m. on June 11. A candidate for commissioner must be a full-time resident of the city, and of the district which the person seeks to represent, for at least twelve months prior to the last day of the qualification period.
For more information, or to schedule an appointment to pick up a candidate guidebook, contact the City Clerk’s Office at St. Pete Beach City Hall, 155 Corey Avenue, or call 727-363-9220.