The Apache Junction City Council voted 4-2 on Tuesday to discuss ways to improve traffic flow in a neighborhood east of the city, despite disagreement over whether area roadblocks are dangerous to residents.
The City Council listened to presentations from officials and Pinal County residents living near the roadblocks, the most prominent of which is on the unpaved Lost Dutchman Boulevard. Some residents want it reopened, while others asked to keep it closed.
Tuni House, who lives on Hidalgo Street, has suffered two heart attacks since Thanksgiving, and she said the roadblocks forced emergency personnel to take a lengthy and confusing detour. House and her husband, Todd House, complained to the council on Jan. 6, which prompted officials to revisit the issue Tuesday.
However, resident Greg Hadden handed city officials a packet on Tuesday with 82 signatures from neighbors who want to keep the roadblocks because the closed roads are hazardous and poorly maintained, he said.
"The vast majority of homes on the roads in question has signed to keep them closed," Hadden said.
Councilmen Kris Sippel and John Insalaco voted against meeting with Pinal County officials to discuss alternate routes, saying it was a waste of time and money. Councilman Brian Milkey was absent.
Mayor Douglas Coleman said he was bothered that residents in favor of reopening Lost Dutchman, closed in 1998 at Pinal County’s request, told the council earlier this month that the road was open to county traffic east of the roadblock, and that Apache Junction Fire District officials wanted the barricade removed.
On Tuesday, Pinal County officials said the road was closed to county traffic, and Apache Junction Fire Chief John Flynn said the fire district can no longer use Lost Dutchman because its vehicles are too large to navigate the bumpy dirt road. Both statements refuted what residents had told the council two weeks earlier.
"I felt a little bit misled by that," Coleman said, although he added that he wasn’t opposed to the idea of forming an improvement district to pay for an alternate route on nearby Hidalgo.
Those in favor of clearing the roadblocks said the real reason for the dispute is that some residents don’t want through traffic on their streets.
Morris Benson, who lives on nearby Jacob Waltz Street — which is still open to traffic — said neighbors on Hidalgo and Lost Dutchman are acting hypocritically.
"These same people who don’t want us to use their road want to use our road," Morris said.