WATERLOO — Tempers boiled over as city leaders once again debated whether to install stop signs at the site of a fatal accident.
Waterloo City Council members voted 5-2 Monday to approve the second of what could be six ordinance readings required to install four-way stops at Ansborough Avenue and Shaulis Road.
But the debate turned fractious when Mayor Quentin Hart and Councilman Tom Powers took issue with the tone Councilman Steve Schmitt took last week when grilling city traffic engineer Mohammad Elahi over his recommendation for the four-way stop.
Retired firefighter Jeff Freshwater also took Schmitt to task for his comments and criticized other council members for not stopping him. His son, Greg Freshwater, died Aug. 29 after jogging into the path of a sport utility vehicle at the intersection, which led to the traffic study.
“I sat and watched as Mohammad stood at this podium — a highly educated man with advanced degrees in his field and respected expertise — and was forced to respond to cynical, condescending questions and comments,” Freshwater said.
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He said Schmitt disrespected Elahi for saying the decision was “emotional” when it was based on “collected data and scientific conclusion.”
Elahi, who has worked for the city since 2002, has multiple degrees, including a doctorate in traffic and civil engineering; is called as an expert witness in court cases involving crashes at signalized intersections; and, according to the mayor, is recruited frequently by other communities.
“At some point this council has to realize that we have experts that are our staff members, and we’ve got to start showing some respect to our senior leadership throughout this city,” Powers said. “I think it’s appalling that we’ve always got to argue about our experts. We want to humiliate them.”
Schmitt contended his questions last week were not out of line.
“This whole ‘emotional’ thing did not have to do with Mohammad; it had to do with the City Council,” Schmitt said. “It was not an inference on Mohammad, and if somebody thought it was, they’re mistaken.
“I also hope we do not get to the point where a city councilman cannot question a department head without it being some personal issue,” he added.
Hart countered that Schmitt was “very cynical” in his questions.
“That’s your opinion,” Schmitt said.
“It’s absolutely my opinion,” Hart replied. “And I’m telling you my opinion, just like you sat here and gave yours, and it was cynical and it wasn’t appreciated.”
Powers was joined by Tom Lind, Jerome Amos Jr., Bruce Jacobs and Pat Morrissey in voting for the second reading of an ordinance making an exception for Ansborough’s status as a “through street.” Schmitt and Ron Welper voted against it.
The “through street” exception must be approved before the council can vote to add stop signs on Ansborough Avenue to join the ones already in place on Shaulis.