ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
A local law-enforcement officer expressed his concern during the Feb. 6 meeting of the Hillsboro City Council about traffic hazards that threaten the safety of students near Hillsboro Elementary School.
Scott Proffitt said he came to address the council from the standpoint of a father, but drew upon his training as a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper to describe his concerns about the potential dangers he observed while transporting his own children to and from the school.
“I’ve seen too many close calls,” Proffitt said, referring to what he described as a “vehicle bottleneck” near the school.
“There is an endangerment to our children. I’d like to think I’m a cautious driver, but even I’m concerned about the bottleneck.”
Proffitt said he has observed children being picked up or dropped off from cars that were paused in a lane of live traffic, and at least two occasions when children actually walked into vehicles, but without injury.
Based on his own experiences, Proffitt described the alley that runs along the west boundary of the school and opens into A Street as “downright scary.” He said a stand of pampas grass near the alley entrance makes visibility all but impossible for a driver who is approaching A Street from the north.
Proffitt said he knew traffic options surrounding the school are limited because of the lack of through streets, but he suggested a logical and inexpensive first step would be to remove the barrier situated at the north end of the alley and open the alley to one-way (north bound) vehicle traffic, with no pedestrians (particularly children) allowed to use the alley during the unloading and loading times before and after school.
“From a traffic law perspective, it is a violation to have the gate across the alley,” Proffitt stated. He added that based on a phone conversation he had with the state fire marshall’s office, it was also illegal to block the alley because of fire protection.
Proffitt said the state fire marshall had offered an opinion based on Proffitt’s description of the situation, not on actual inspection.
Mayor Delores Dalke said the school district several years ago had hired a company to conduct a traffic study around its school buildings. She believed the school had implemented every recommendation the company had made to alleviate congestion.
As for the alley, she and other council members recollected the alley was blocked off because some drivers had been using the backyards of homeowners along Wilson Street to turn their vehicles around after dropping off their children.
The council did not take action on Proffitt’s suggestion, noting the need for more research, particularly as it relates to the use of the alley.
Adams Street funding
The council agreed to enter an administrative service agreement with Ranson Consultants LLC of Wichita regarding additional funding through the Kansas Department of Transportation to help pay for the Adams Street renovation project.
Rose Mary Saunders, representing Ranson, said additional KDOT funding is available to cover the higher-than-anticipated costs of the project.
To protect itself from further cost increases, the council also formally accepted the construction bid of APAC Kansas to complete the project.
If additional KDOT money does not come through, the city will cover the additional expense with money from its capital-improvement budget.
Saunders will also help the city apply for a Homeland Security firefighters grant that can be used to enlarge the city’s fire station.
The council tabled picking an architect for the project until it receives word about funding, which is a 90 percent grant with a 10 percent match from the city.
The council heard a recommendation from its energy consultant, Scott Schreve, that the council use a combination of Westar Energy and the Kansas Power Pool to provide the city with electricity once its current contract with Westar ends later this year.
Schreve said the electrical rates Westar is suggesting for the new contract will be significantly higher than the rates in the current contract-but not as high as had been feared and lower than some other potential suppliers.
He said participating with the KPP, a consortium of communities working together to increase their bargaining power, would be to Hillsboro’s advantage. Regardless, the city will be paying more for its electricity than it has been to this point.
In other business, the council:
— agreed to have City Attorney Dan Baldwin draft an ordinance addressing the city’s snow-removal procedures, including a new stipulation that business owners in the downtown business district clear sidewalks of snow within 12 hours after the conclusion of a snowfall.
— tabled indefinitely a public hearing about possible tax abatement for Flint Hills Industries at the request of the company.