A long-running dispute over stop signs that previously simmered in private became public at a recent town board meeting as town leaders and a group of neighbors debated each other in front of a standing-room-only audience of about 100.
The issue concerns chronic speeders in a children-heavy neighborhood, and whether the town should install stop signs.
Vinny Tornone and two of his neighbors in the Gray’s Creek subdivision off Wilbon Road came to the town commission meeting on Dec. 8, to voice their concerns to Fuquay-Varina’s leaders.
Mayor John Byrne appeared frustrated. He said there was no reason to ask elected officials to do something that is the responsibility of professional staff employed by the town or the state.
“As a board, we don’t just decide where stop signs go,” Byrne told Tornone.
Tornone said he has been asking those staffers about the stop signs for months, with no luck. So he decided to make his grievances public.
“My bottom line is I have to protect my children because the town of Fuquay-Varina doesn’t care,” he said in an interview.
Byrne said that’s not true. He also said if the experts determine a stop sign won’t be useful, they won’t put one in, which is likely what happened in this situation. Tornone said the town is just caving to pressure from other neighbors who don’t want the signs.
Tornone, a former police officer and soldier, was wounded in Afghanistan and now stays at home with his children. He watches them play outside, and as cars speed by, he thinks about the dead children he saw when responding to traffic accidents as a cop in New York City.
Both Tornone and another neighbor, Tom Gavin, said they’ve stepped in front of speeding cars before and yelled at the drivers because there were kids playing in the street just ahead.
“They didn’t care,” Gavin said of the offending drivers.
Byrne said if the drivers are that callous, they probably won’t respect stop signs, either.
Gavin said it’s at least worth a try.
“Then at least there’d be a law they’re breaking,” Gavin said.
In addition to Tornone’s work as a police officer, he said he also was in the Army Special Forces as part of the Night Stalkers, an elite and secretive helicopter unit. He wore a Night Stalkers shirt to Tuesday’s meeting, but said he wasn’t itching for a fight.
“I’m not trying to change the world,” Tornone said. “I’m just trying to work with the town.”
He offered to donate $2,000 for the town to install two stop signs in his neighborhood and use the rest for other public safety needs. But Byrne took offense to that suggestion.
“If you think you’re going to circumvent (the official process) and get the board to jump up just because you’re offering a donation, it’s not going to work that way,” Byrne said.
Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran