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Crossing guards to remain at three intersections, no expansion of services

Amherstburg municipal building.

Town council received a crossing guard feasibility study update and agreed with a recommendation to maintain three locations.

The town will keep crossing guards at Richmond St. and Fryer St., Victoria St. S. and Hamilton Dr. and the Richmond path, located near 252 Richmond St.

Administration was also directed to include $2,000 in the 2025 operating budget as part of an annual contribution to pay for a new study every five years.

Voting in favour of the recommendation were Mayor Michael Prue, Deputy Mayor Chris Gibb, Councillor Don McArthur, Councillor Peter Courtney and Councillor Linden Crain. Opposed were Councillor Diane Pouget and Councillor Molly Allaire.

The updated study was performed by HRYCAY Consulting Engineers Inc. (HCEI), the same firm engaged in Aug. 2018 to conduct the original crossing guard feasibility study.

A report from deputy clerk Sarah Sabihuddin, who oversees the town's crossing guard program, stated the “implementation of, and the adherence to, the feasibility study conducted by the HCEI regarding the deployment of crossing guards has significantly mitigated a tangible and pressing risk that the municipality had been grappling with in the past regarding this program.”

Concerns cited by administration included recruiting and retention of crossing guards, inconsistent availability and intermittent coverage, public perception and trust as well as legal and liability issues.

HCEI noted in April-May 2024, nine intersections were studied with no data being recorded on “atypical days” such as school breaks, holidays, days that precede or follow a holiday break, professional activity (PA) days or the days that precede or follow a PA day, days with special school events or days with inclement weather.

The decision to reduce the amount of crossing guard locations to three upset some people four years ago, and didn't sit any better this year with people wanting more crossings.

Allaire questioned the times that were used during the study, with Sabihuddin stating school yards aren't staffed until 15 minutes before the opening bell of the day. Allaire had it confirmed by the clerk's department the cost of a crossing guard is about $10,000 each, between their salaries and associated expenses, and she believed the cost of a crossing guard is preferable to that of a study.

“I don't agree with this,” said Allaire.

There were parents Allaire said reached out to her stating they drive their children to school rather than letting them walk, fearing for their safety. That would have impacted the numbers, she believed.

Crossing guards also teach children about how to safely cross the street, Allaire added, noting sometimes children pick up different things from people other than their parents.

There is a 15-minute parking zone in front of Ecole St.-Jean Baptiste, she added, and that has led to students jaywalking before and after school. Allaire asked if police were contacted about the report, with clerk Kevin Fox stating they were not as crossing guards are not a police service. Fox added the Windsor Police Service – Amherstburg Detachment commanding officer Staff Sgt. Bryan Hayes was on hand to answer any questions council may have had.

Pouget said it is the job of council to protect the public, including children.

“If we don't protect our children, we're not doing our most important job,” said Pouget. “I think we're being negligent in that area.”Pouget agreed with Allaire that parents are driving their children to school over safety concerns of them walking. “They drive them, that's why you don't have the numbers,” said Pouget. “We have to do more to help the children. We encourage walking but how can they walk if they feel unsafe to get to school and have their parents drive them?”

Crossing guards have also reported being verbally harassed by drivers, with some drivers also driving too fast or erratically.

“If crossing guards don't feel safe, that speaks volumes,” she said.

Courtney supported the motion, stating “the studies are there.” He believed “we all need to take responsibility for our children,” suggesting that older children assist younger children on their way to and from school.

Courtney noted traffic calming measures are in place in Windsor to help slow people down in school zones and believed that was the way to go in Amherstburg.

Crain said the engineering firm did a thorough job in looking at the intersections, adding his concerns over legal and liability should the recommendation from administration and the engineering firm not be followed.

He believed the town has been proactive in dealing with concerns, such as asking police for additional patrols, presenting a public education campaign and looking at traffic calming measures.

McArthur also supported the motion, citing they had a professional firm do a study and their results should be followed.

“I think it only makes sense given the facts and stats before us,” said McArthur.

McArthur pointed out administration's concerns earlier in the meeting about the ability to staff a more robust program. Sabihuddin said she fields calls from crossing guards who call in sick early in the morning, adding if the crossing guard can't call someone off the reserve list, she has to do it. There have been times she or another member of the clerk's department have had to fill in for a shift.

Fox said while the job pays $19.10 per hour, crossing guards work two hours per day in all weather conditions for 195 days per year.

“It's not ideal working conditions for many people,” said Fox.

McArthur said he voted in favour of the updated study due to a need for more statistics and facts. He believed there are moral and legal obligations if a crossing guard is promised at a certain location only to not have one there because of staffing issues. He added the previous council lowered the pedestrian threshold from 40 pedestrians to 35 to try and justify more guards.

While it would be ideal to have crossing guards at every corner, Gibb said the data provided by HCEI shows what needs to happen.

“I can't make decisions based on emotions or heartstrings,” said Gibb. “We have to make business decisions based on the facts and what the experts have discovered.”

Prue cautioned council if it were a “no” vote on the recommendation, there would be no crossing guards at all. Pouget interjected by saying she would make a follow-up motion to hire crossing guards.

The mayor said it was his motion four years ago, when he was a councillor, that lowered the warrants. He stated if the original pedestrian warrants were to stay in place, only one location would have been staffed with crossing guards. Prue added council was open to amend the motion, including offering more pay or to further lower warrants, but nothing was raised, suggesting it's better to amend a motion than to vote it down.

“I am not seeing it here tonight,” he said of amendments.

The $2,000 contribution to future studies will go to the plans and studies reserve.

Crossing guards to remain at three intersections, no expansion of services

By Ron Giofu

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