Archive for Thursday, June 7, 2007

Council gets look at safe route ideas

June 7, 2007

Problems with routes to various schools in Baldwin City have been identified and plans are being worked on for funding through the Safe Routes to Schools program.

Baldwin City is one of only 20 cities in the state that have advanced through the grant process for $1 million available from the Kansas Department of Transportation. It's the first year of the program in Kansas and is designed to provide safe walking and biking routes to schools in an effort to promote exercise in light of the growing problem of childhood obesity in the nation.

Holly Powers and Carisa McMullen from Landworks Studio, which is doing the initial work on the project, presented their findings to the Baldwin City Council Monday night.

"We've been working with the city and school district for safe routes," said Powers. "Phase I is to share the information."

In Phase II is where eight to 15 of those 20 cities will be chosen for funding. The most any city can receive is $250,000. Plans for Phase II are to be submitted by July 22 and funding would come after that in the fall.

"We'd love to prioritize," said McMullen.

What the company has found through surveys of children in Kindergarten through eighth grade in the Baldwin School District is that only 4 percent of the children walk to school. Another 6 percent are in carpools, 33 percent are on school buses and the whopping total of 57 percent of students arrive at school in the family car.

Powers said the emphasis of the program is to:

  • Build a physical environment
  • Encourage a social climate
  • Persuade physical activity among children
  • Support children's ability to walk, bike or carpool safely to school

The issues and problems the study revealed in the Baldwin School District were:

  • Unsafe crossing on U.S. Highway 56
  • Lack of sidewalks
  • Poorly marked crosswalks
  • No designated safe routes to school buildings
  • Traffic congestion around school zones
  • Unsafe driver behavior
  • Speeding through residential streets and school zones
  • No easy access to Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center from neighborhoods

As for problems at specific schools, the study found in additional to no easy access to BESIC that there is heavy traffic congestion on U.S. 56 during pick up and drop off.

For Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center, the issues were:

  • Illegal parking
  • Motor vehicles stopping in traffic lane
  • Dropping off students in the street rather than at the drop-off zone
  • Violating school drop-off and pick-up procedures
  • Not enough sidewalks at school area

For Baldwin Junior High School, the issues were:

  • Lack of sidewalks
  • Poorly marked cross walks
  • Crossing on U.S. 56
  • Speeding around school zones

Powers said the Safe Routes to School Project is based around five "Es." They are:

  • Education
  • Encouragement
  • Enforcement
  • Engineering
  • Evaluation

The plan that is developed through the information gained in the survey will now be shared with the school district and others to develop a plan to submit to KDOT in July.

"So far, KDOT has been exceptional to work with on this," said McMullen. "They are really excited about this program."

The council liked what they heard regarding the program.

"It seems like a huge need in our community," said Council Member Doyle Jardon, adding that the location of the BESIC was "putting the cart before the horse."

The council also approved on first reading an ordinance that would raise the rate for trash pick up in the city by 84 cents per month for a total of $10.86 per year.

"That's what we're looking at for an increase per household," said Dingman.

It would be the first increase for trash pick up by Ottawa Sanitation since 2003, although a fuel-related increase was granted in 2005. If passed on second reading at the next council meeting, the rates wouldn't change until the July billing.

The council was also introduced to Darcy Higgins, who is taking over as city clerk from Peggy Nichols. Higgins, who lives in Baldwin City with her husband and two children, previously worked for Sprint.

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