Effort fails to reinstate crossing guard program

At Monday's City Council meeting, Mayor Gary Graham proclaimed June 20, 2016, as Milkheila Flores Day in O'Fallon. Flores is a Rotary Exchange Student from Mexico. Pictured from left: Rotarian Richard Lunan, O'Fallon Rotary Club President Matt Smallheer, Rotarian Ed True, Milkheila Flores, and Mayor Graham.  (O'Fallon Weekly Photo by Nick Miller)

At Monday’s City Council meeting, Mayor Gary Graham proclaimed June 20, 2016, as Milkheila Flores Day in O’Fallon. Flores is a Rotary Exchange Student from Mexico. Pictured from left: Rotarian Richard Lunan, O’Fallon Rotary Club President Matt Smallheer, Rotarian Ed True, Milkheila Flores, and Mayor Graham. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Nick Miller)

O’FALLON – A recent controversy surrounding the abolishment of the city’s crossing guard program came to a head at Monday night’s City Council meeting, where a motion to reinstate the program failed by a wide margin.

The program was eliminated in the fiscal year 2016-17 city budget due to a variety of reasons, including a lack of substitute crossing guards willing to fill in at a moment’s notice if the regular guard called in. When substitutes were unable to fill in, police officers were used. resulting in additional police officers being called in to cover work shifts at an overtime rate.

Aldermen Herb Roach, Robert Kueker, and Matt Smallheer were the lone proponents of reinstating the program, while the rest of the council voted against brining it back.

“When a police officer takes that shift, its one less officer protecting the city on its streets. On April 4, I suggested to this council that we use revenue from video gaming for light up stop signs and yield signs at intersections, like the one at Lincoln and Third. This could be done at intersections previously manned by crossing guards,” said Alderman Kevin Hagarty. “I’m all about safety. Children and their safety will always be a big priority. But surrounding cities do not fund or administer their crossing guard programs, the school districts do. The school districts have been on notice and should be working to come up with a plan to take this program back.”

“What this issue boils down to is ‘Who is in the best position to do this?’ I believe safety is important for the kids. I personally think its good when taxing bodies can work together. If we look at who can best manage it, I’m sure the schools have good management in place, but I know the police department has the right management in place. I have no question that the police department, or some other department, can manage this program,” said Alderman Herb Roach. “I urge the city and the school districts to continue their discussions to come to a long term resolution that is not only safe for the kids but also a cost effective program for the community.”

“Obviously everyone cares about the safety of the kids. This is a school district issue. The fact is that the school district recognizes the problems and hassles of running a program like this The money has been offered to them and they still said they didn’t want to administer it. I don’t think the police department should be burdened with it. If the PTO wants to step up and organize volunteers, that would be great,” said Alderman Mike Bennett.

“I look at it as the city’s job to get the kids there and its the school’s job to educate them once they’re there,” said Alderman Robert Kueker.

Alderman Matt Smallheer pointed out that the crossing guard program was cited as a benefit the city provides District 90 back when the city negotiated the passthrough amount to the school district related to the Central City TIF a year ago.

Police Chief Eric Van Hook has been working with District 90 Superintendent Carrie Hruby and representatives with St. Clare School to see what can be done to ensure the safety of school children now that the formal crossing guard program has ended.

“When the political dust settles on this, the superintendents, myself, and my command staff will be left to put together something that’s viable,” said Van Hook.

In other business…

The Council approved the appointment of Library Board members. Larry Morrison, Linda Kahley, and Betty Reed were appointed to three year terms, while Nancy Clark and Suzanne Rupright were appointed to two year terms. Harriet Baker, Doug Distler, and Dennis Grimmer were appointed to one year terms.

The Council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the Mayor to sign a local agency agreement with the Illinois Department of Transportation for Federal participation for the construction of sidewalks at Hinchcliffe, Marie Schaefer, and Estelle Kampmeyer Elementary Schools. The project totals $241,000.

The Council also approved a resolution authorizing the transfer of $250,000 from General Fund Reserves to be used for equipment and building updates for the 911 Consolidation Center. This is part of the ongoing process of consolidating the 911 center in Fairview Heights with O’Fallon’s due to a state mandate.

During the clerk’s report, the Council approved two Split the Pot requests, one from Random Acts to be conducted on June 25 and the other from Hands to Help NFP to be held on July 16. Both raffles will be held at St. Clair Bowl.