A Sylvania City Council committee voted unanimously last week to recommend paying for a crossing guard at a McCord Road intersection near two local schools for one year, to see if safety improves and the number of children walking to school increases.
"I'm pleased with their willingness to commit to a guard for a finite term," said Laura Megeath, the parent of a Sylvan School pupil, who suggested the one-year idea to the committee late in an hour-long discussion. "That's what's going to make a difference in a traffic study."
If the full council approves the measure, the city would pay for the Sylvania Local Schools to post a crossing guard at McCord and Gaines Mill roads for two hours each school day, one hour in the morning and one in the afternoon, to direct children walking to and from Sylvan and McCord junior high schools.
And with the streets and safety committee's four members constituting a majority of council, and other council members present during the meeting, committee chairman Todd Milner predicted swift passage for the proposal when council meets Monday.
The resolution also called on the city's service department to repaint three crosswalks along McCord, including the one at Gaines Mill, and post signs reminding motorists to stop for pedestrians using them.
Committee discussion followed a report from Laurie Adams, a principal of Maumee-based DGL Consulting Engineers, who said that data from a series of traffic studies along McCord has consistently failed to justify installing a stoplight at McCord and Gaines Mill or a pedestrian signal near McCord Junior High.
"There used to be what I would call a political warrant: signals put in where they didn't quite meet warrants [standards]. But most entities don't do that any more because of liability issues," she said. Legally, she added later, "you cannot do anything that would stop traffic on McCord."
But Michelle Atkinson, a McCord parent who has become the point person for the current crop of parents seeking resolution to their fears of children being struck by cars on the busy road, argued that the studies haven't given consideration to pedestrians' needs, while other speakers said some parents won't let their kids walk to school because it requires crossing McCord.
Julie Fruchtman-Yakumithis, whose children attend Sylvan and Southview High School, professed bafflement at why traffic counts keep officials from making safety improvements.
"I feel like I'm taking crazy pills," she said. "Our children is what our community is all about."
"Everybody here is all for the safety of the children," responded Mr. Milner. "Our hands are tied. We cannot install something we're not allowed to install."
Mrs. Megeath soon suggested the idea of providing a guard for one year, and seeing if enough children started walking to school that the pedestrian count then qualified one or more of the crosswalks for a signal. New counts could be taken after families had time to adjust to the guard's presence, she said.
Brad Rieger, the Sylvania schools' superintendent, who had earlier proposed that the city pay for, but the school district hire, a guard, estimated the price tag for two hours a day at $5,000 to $6,000 annually.
The superintendent discouraged the idea of using volunteers for the job on the grounds that enthusiasm is hard to maintain and a paid guard would have more authority, and also dismissed establishing a student safety patrol with eighth graders.
"The traffic on McCord is a little too intense. I wouldn't want to put that responsibility on a kid," he said.