Police and DPW will do in short-term, with village considering part-timer with training and equipment
ALBION – The Village of Albion will have someone serving as a crossing guard on Thursday morning and afternoon with a goal of having a person trained for the part-time role, Mayor Dean London said during tonight’s Village Board meeting.
There has been an outcry in the community since Sunday night when the school notified parents there wouldn’t be a crossing guard out on Monday morning. The village had been staffing the position for many years but eliminated the position during budget talks last spring.
Cutting the job saved the village about $4,500. Mayor London apologized during today’s Village Board meeting for not notifying school officials about the crossing guard until last Tuesday at about 9 p.m. The first day of school was last Thursday. Albion police officers served as crossing guards for two school days last week.
“I did state it was my fault,” London said. “You should have been notified sooner.”
Margy Brown, the Board of Education president, said the school would help pay for the position or provide a trained person. She asked the village to have a crossing guard in an interim basis until a solution could be reached for a trained person to take over. General municipal law says a crossing guard is a village’s responsibility, not a school district’s. Brown said the school district wants to help ensure there will be a trained person helping students get through a busy intersection.
“We are committed to doing it, to having a crossing guard at the school,” Brown told Village Board members. “I want to make it crystal clear that the Albion school district is committed to student safety.”
She also said the notice so close to the start of the school year was difficult for the school district. In the future, Brown said the school should be involved in conversations that affect students.
London agreed with her assessment. After the budget was adopted in late April, “it was out of sight, out of mind,” London said. He forgot to follow up with the school district.
The board agreed to have police officers or the Department of Public Works serve as crossing guards during the morning rush. Police Chief Roland Nenni is a state certified instructor for traffic safety. He said police officers and the DPW already have training in directing traffic.
Nenni said pedestrian safety is priority for the police department. In observing the traffic flow and students crossing Route 31 the past three days, Nenni said traffic flow is a problem near the intersection of Route 31 and McKinistry Street.
Traffic can get backed up near the intersection, and some children will prefer to cross the street near CRFS or Tastee Freeze ice cream stand. There aren’t cross walks there.
Village Trustee Eileen Banker said parents need to tell their children to cross the street at the cross walk. She said it is frustrating for many drivers on McKinistry Street when students don’t use sidewalks and instead walk right in the road.
This morning Albion police stopped four drivers for not yielding to pedestrians in the cross walk. Nenni said it can be confusing to drivers and pedestrians for who has the right of way. If the pedestrian is on the sidewalk, the driver has the right of way. But once the pedestrian leaves the curb, the driver needs to yield, Nenni said.
“What we really need is a good program there and to train it up,” he said. “We have huge pedestrian traffic at that time.”
He wants to better train a crossing guard to help with the traffic flow and also ensure pedestrians can cross safely.
“You need the right person who is committed to being there and is focused,” he said.
Nenni is worried if a police officer was committed to being there that would make it difficult for officers to respond to high priority calls. He said police received 244 calls last year during that morning school rush.
London said village officials will meet with the school soon to discuss a long-term solution for the position.
The mayor said he wants to have someone fully trained with the proper equipment, including stop signs.
“In the short term it will be the police department and possibly other village employees until we can find someone with the proper techniques we’re looking for and the proper equipment,” London said.
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