WARSAW — The Warsaw Traffic Safety Commission meeting held Wednesday, Aug. 7, focused almost entirely on school safety.
Husky Trail, where Harrison Elementary School is located, has been the chief area of concern in recent months, following the death of 8-year-old Gidieon Cook, who was struck by a vehicle on Husky Trail in June, as he was returning home after summer school classes.
The meeting was led by Warsaw Police Captain Joel Beam because Commission President Steve Foster was unable to attend.
A two-part plan was discussed that would modify the current crosswalk on Husky Trail and add additional signage at the perimeter of the school zone.
Warsaw Public Works Superintendent Jeff Beeler said they have been looking into solar flashing blinker beacon signs.
“We’ve been doing research with multiple companies,” Beeler said. “The average price range is $13,000 to $16,000 for a set.”
Beeler told commission members that the lead time, once decided, would be five to eight weeks to acquire the signs.
“You used to be able to go out and purchase these things and install them piece by piece yourself,” said Beeler. “With the new rules and everything, we’re not allowed to purchase these items without going through engineering first, which is the sign company. So we will give them what we think we’d like to see and they’ll make sure it meets all the standards that are out there and they will then install that for us.”
“It’s really critical to draw awareness to the speed,” added Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer, who said the signs can be programmed so that in the case of a fog delay or something of that nature, the signs can be activated at alternate times.
A decision was also made to reduce the length of time for the flashing lights at the current Husky Trail crosswalk.
“What we don’t want in a crossing area is for someone to get used to lights always flashing,” Beam cautioned. “We want lights to be on when there are pedestrians crossing the street.”
Thallemer and Beam said they are working with the school to modify the length of time the crosswalk lights are flashing. The tentative plan is to reduce the length of time the lights flash from two minutes down to 30 seconds.
Chief Academic Officer Dave Robertson read the following statement from Warsaw Community Schools:
“Warsaw Community Schools continually collaborates with the Warsaw Police Department and the city traffic safety commission and additional local authorities to review the safety of its school walking and bus routes. This summer school officials learned of construction projects scheduled to begin during the fall of 2019 which will potentially impact some sidewalks and roads. Because these projects will potentially affect the walking zones of North Pointe Drive, Husky Trail and 300N, Warsaw Schools will begin the school year by providing bussing on these routes. This temporary decision will be reviewed upon completion of the projects. Construction is scheduled to begin in future weeks. Crossing guards will continue to be on duty from 8:35 to 9:05 in the morning and from 3:40 to 4:10 in the afternoon at Harrison Elementary School.”
He continued: “Warsaw Community Schools encourages students and families to take advantage of the bus transportation during this period of construction. Additionally, Warsaw Community Schools reminds the public that the start of the school year means increased pedestrian and bus traffic. We ask for the public’s help in ensuring that all students get to and return from school safely. Please refrain from distracted driving and remember to always stop for extended school bus stop arms.”
Beam asked that parents use designated drop-off zones at all schools where they are available.
“School starts Aug. 13 and we ask that drivers pay attention and watch for kids walking to and from school,” said Beam.
Warsaw Police will provide training for school crossing guards beginning this Friday, said Beam. This will include teachers and custodians who help out with crossing guard duties as well.
“Nothing is going to take the place of education, which we are trying to do; enforcement, which we will continue to do, but also driver awareness and not being distracted, taking responsibility when you’re behind the wheel to drive safely and pay attention,” Thallemer said. “There’s nothing we can do to ensure that folks are going to behave that way when they drive. All we can do is continue to educate.”
“We’re going to do everything we can with the schools and their transportation department to ensure that the schools are as safe as they can be with regard to pedestrian and automobile traffic,” Thallemer concluded.
Warsaw City Planner Jeremy Skinner said paving and construction of new sidewalks along North Pointe Drive and reconstruction of the road between Husky Trail and Mariners Drive.
“It’s going to be challenging walking through there while they’re reconstructing the road,” Skinner said. “The sidewalk will tie into Husky Trail and run all the way to the YMCA so when it’s done there will be a walking path all the way to the YMCA.”
“We have a lot of construction going on right now and there are a lot of contractors out there working,” said Skinner, who pointed out that on two recent projects they have had issues with drivers becoming frustrated with construction and simply driving through people’s yards.
“We ask that drivers slow down, pay attention and use the detours that are given,” Skinner said. “Those people out there are fathers, they have kids and we want to protect them as well.”
The next regular meeting will be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 4.