Saturday, January 28, 2023

Community Club backs fund raiser for decoy patrol car

by Jacob Doran
| April 21, 2009 11:00 PM

This month's meeting of the Lakeside Community Club brought with it a volley of discussion about the upcoming community fair, which raises money for a multitude of charities throughout the Valley.

In order to bolster funds to disperse to those charities, the ladies of the club raffled an etching donated by Lakeside artist Barbara Coppock. The raffle generated $437.

However, the April 8 meeting also gave rise to growing fervor for the local decoy patrol car, a project spearheaded by Lakeside Mercantile owners Deb and Jere Newell. During the meeting, Deb distributed a sheet on which she asked that anyone interested in a party to help raise money for the decoy patrol car - affectionately named "Lucky" - to write their e-mail address so that she could notify them when a date had been set.

"We asked everyone who was interested in having a party for Lucky to sign up with their e-mail," Deb said. "I think virtually everybody who was there did. Cindy Lewis, who has been very supportive, is in charge of putting together the invitation."

Although Deb stressed that the community as a whole has been very supportive of Lucky, many do not realize the cost associated with maintaining the vehicle and moving it around Lakeside and Somers in order to keep travelers more conscious of their speed.

Although the community club allocated $1,000 last summer and $500 last fall as grants to help maintain the car, Deb said maintaining the vehicle is a constant need and will become more expensive during the summer when it is most needed to get the attention of tourists visiting the Flathead or en route to Glacier Park.

"We give money through the community club," Lewis said. "But I don't think people realize just what it takes to insure and operate that car. This winter, it needed snow tires, and Jere bought two instead of getting four to keep the cost down. The reality is that it needs all the things that we need for our own vehicles, just to get back and forth.

"The party for Lucky will be a fun time for the community and a way to celebrate this great thing that's helping to slow down traffic and - in theory - to save lives."

Lewis added that the party will also afford people who have questions about the decoy a chance to get answers, as well as to become acquainted with the people behind the project. Besides the social and financial aspect, Lewis said, will be a great opportunity to learn what all goes into keeping the car on the road to deter speeders.

As to whether or not the faux black-and-white remains effective more than a year after it became the silent sentinel of the West Shore, Lewis said she recently observed people flashing their headlights to warn other vehicles of Lucky's "speed trap." What's more, she stressed that even people who know it's a decoy still hit their brakes when they see him.

Ed Kerley, who volunteers his time to bring Lucky up to Somers from its usual Lakeside post, said he constantly witnesses Lucky's effectiveness when he sees the brake lights and subsequent reduction in speed of those who see the vehicle on the side of the road.

"It's very easy to document the decrease it people's speed," Kerley said. "You put the car out there and it's just immediate, as soon as people see it. Even for those of us who know the car is a decoy, it's just automatic. Whenever you see black and white, you automatically put your foot on the brake."

Kerley said it will be crucial to have the decoy in out near the boat ramps during the summer because of the constant congestion. However, with the influx of tourists, vacationers, summer residents and locals who recreate on the West Shore, he also thought having the car on the road would be an asset to both communities.

"Both Lakeside and Somers are in a bad area for people to slow down, because they're at the bottom of a hill," Kerley said, "and it's harder to slow down when you're going downhill. We all know that if it's posted at 55, they're going to do 60 mph, and if it's posted at 45 mph, they're going to do 50. I think at Somers, during the summer months, 45 is way too fast to be going through here.

"I think, along with the speed, it's a safety measure. If Lucky just slows one person down and prevents an accident, it's worth while. It's only going to take one person-one of our kids' or grandkids' lives being spared, to make all the difference. That's what's important."

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