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Community Christian School seeking safer crossing for students

A bus departs Thursday near the student crosswalk opposite Community Christian School in Willmar. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR -- Community Christian School in Willmar is asking the city to improve safety for students who cross busy 19th Avenue Southwest to get to and from the school.

School Administrator Del Brouwer says more students are now crossing 19th Avenue because the state eliminated crossing hazardous streets as a reason for busing students. Because of this, the school now has more students that walk, ride bike or are driven by parents, he said.

Brouwer discussed his concerns with the City Council's Public Works/Safety Committee this week.

He said 21 students live south of 19th Avenue. The school is located on the north side of 19th Avenue.

Brouwer said several factors have changed the dynamics since CCS started in 1978 with 33 students and 19th Avenue was a two-lane road with almost no traffic. Today, the school, which includes a full high school, has 225 to 230 students and 19th Avenue is a five-lane road including turn lane with more than 8,500 cars passing the school per day, according to a 2006 traffic count.

Residential development has expanded south of 19th Avenue. Also, nearby Roosevelt Elementary School has expanded its grade levels, and traffic from the north on County Road 5 and from the west on state Highway 23 is increasing.

Brouwer said an accident occurred Monday with CCS traffic. Last October, he said, a car was broadsided while it was leaving the parking lot, and there have been several times when children and adults were almost hit in the crosswalk. Brouwer said the speed limit remains unchanged, increasing from 40 to 45 mph just east of the school.

As a solution, Brouwer suggested the city move the flashing light from where it sits just east of Roosevelt to just east of CCS. Motorists are required to slow down when the lights are flashing. The school regulates the flashing time.

The flashing lights at Roosevelt and at Kennedy Elementary were purchased and are maintained by the Willmar School District, explained Holly Wilson, interim city public works director. The equipment was installed by the Public Works Department. The Municipal Utilities provides the electricity.

Brouwer said he has worked in other school districts and said he does not remember when a city did not take responsibility for the safety of its citizens, and he felt the city should absorb the entire cost of the project.

Committee members discussed possible solutions such as placing the Police Department's mobile radar on 19th Avenue or changing the times when Roosevelt and CCS admit and excuse students. The committee directed Wilson to research the cost of a flasher and other possible solutions.

In other business, Wilson presented information on private street cleaning done with a vacuum-type cleaner by EnviroSweep of Willmar. The city contracted earlier this year with EnviroSweep on a trial basis to clean streets with its vacuum sweeper and delayed a decision on buying a vacuum sweeper.

The city has a broom-type sweeper and was considering the possibility of buying a vacuum sweeper to remove more fine particles from streets to comply with requirements of the state's storm water pollution permit.

EnviroSweep did 183 hours of cleaning and removed 136.5 cubic yards of material at a rate of $69 per hour for a cost of $12,627. Wilson said EnviroSweep was responsive. Public Works Superintendent Ron Gilbertson called it a good learning experience.

EnviroSweep owner Patrick Coyle said the vacuum sweeper was not used when streets were wet. Committee member Ron Christianson thought a better comparison would be provided if Coyle performed two or three sweepings.

Committee Chairman Doug Reese wanted more information. "I need to know if $12,000 is a good deal or not,'' he said. Wilson said she will try to come up with a dollars and hours comparison.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150