The Smithville Aldermen Tuesday night voted to participate in a partnership with the county and the school system to appropriate up to three thousand dollars a year toward the cost of hiring someone to direct traffic in the school zone at Northside Elementary, with the understanding that the county and school board will each fund one third of the cost as well.
The aldermen also voted for the city to assign someone to go ahead and start directing traffic there in the meantime, until the school board and county commission can take action on this proposal.
Last Thursday, several county and city officials held an informal meeting at the courthouse to discuss the plan which calls for the County, the City of Smithville, and the Board of Education to share in the cost of funding the position of one crossing guard or officer to direct traffic in the mornings and afternoons for a total of approximately four hours a day, Monday through Friday, in the school zone at Northside Elementary School. County Mayor Mike Foster said the cost is estimated to be eight to nine thousand dollars per year, which could be split equally between the county, city, and school system. In addition, Foster said the school board would be asked to employ the person to do the job, preferably someone who is trained and already knows how to direct traffic.
Neither of the school board members nor Director of Schools Mark Willoughby were present at the Thursday discussion because they were already scheduled to attend another meeting.
During last night's special city council meeting, Mayor Hendrixson brought the issue up for discussion. "What the city and Mayor Foster's office discussed is to hire someone to do like two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon at Northside with a cost of approximately eight thousand dollars per year. We came to the conclusion maybe that the fair way to do it is split it three ways. We're talking in the neighborhood of no more than three thousand dollars a year for the school board, the county, and city of Smithville."
Alderman Aaron Meeks recommended that one of the county's constables be considered for the position, if funded. "Johnny King is a constable. He has done this in the past. He is very well qualified and if he needs additional training I'm sure he would be glad to go and get additional training. He would be covered under the county's liability policy. So liability would not be an issue. He would like to do the job. In fact he indicated that he probably wouldn't need four hours a day. He could probably get it done in three. But if we need four, he could do the four. I think the conclusion of the people present at the meeting (Thursday) was that a three way split was a fair and equitable way of handling the problem and it leaves our police officers to do their job and or run radar to slow the people down who are coming through school zones at a high rate of speed, which they can't do if they are standing out in the middle of the street. I think it's a very fair and equitable way of handling it."
Alderman Meeks later made a motion that the city fund one third of the position. "For the city's part, we would be glad to participate on our one third portion of it. Details can be worked out."
Mayor Hendrixson added, "All we can do is our one third and then it's up to the school board and or the county commission to do whatever they want to do."
The motion was adopted unanimously.
Alderman Steve White then went further, suggesting that the city proceed immediately to have someone direct traffic at Northside until the county and school board act on their part of the proposal. " I believe we need someone out there directing traffic even if we use John (Johnny King). I think we have in the budget for a part time officer anyway. If it's where our officers couldn't do it then they could get him to do it. I think it's very urgent that we do have someone out there."
Alderman Shawn Jacobs agreed saying"Let me tell you gentlemen what I'm hearing, and I'm hearing it a lot. That if we can have somebody out there running radar, we can have somebody directing traffic"
Mayor Hendrixson responded, "I think why they run the radar is to slow the traffic down."
Alderman Jacobs answered, "I understand that but the perception of the public is we're just against directing traffic in the school zone. My point is, I agree with Steve, I think we need to get the issue resolved until the county and school board work it out. If we come to an impasse we may have to readdress it later."
The aldermen voted unanimously to have someone direct traffic in the school zone at Northside Elementary at least for one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon until the county and school board act.