In a 5-0 vote, Mammoth Town Council approved a motion at its regular meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 16 to hire two part-time crossing guards to work at the intersection of Meridian Blvd. and Sierra Park Rd.
Police Chief Al Davis, told Council, said the move was considered as the most fiscally responsible way to facilitate the flow of students across the intersection between Minaret Village and Mammoth’s school campuses, which sees a heavy increase in both pedestrian and vehicular traffic when school begins and lets out.
Davis said that there had been two near-miss incidents where students had almost been hit by cars, an an accident where a bicyclist had been struck by a car, though it was unrelated the school traffic.
Davis said, “Kids walk across the street not knowing that they have to yield…” Davis said that hiring a crossing guard to work both the hour before school begins and the hour after school lets out would be a more effective solution than a traffic light at the intersection.
The California Department of Transportation does not consider the intersection a high enough traffic area to warrant a stop light, Mono County Office of Education, Mammoth Unified School District and the Town of Mammoth Lakes will all contribute funds toward the hiring of the two part-time employees.
“There’s been lots of requests to put in a stop light there,” said Lois Klein, MUSD Superintendent, “but that although it’s a busy intersection for us…for Cal-Trans it’s not considered a ‘busy intersection,’ so it wouldn’t quality for government funding and that would be very expensive.”
Davis said that the crossing guard would likely also work the lunch period, when Mammoth High School students are allowed to leave campus, but Klein, who spoke with The Sheet before the motion was passed, doubted that such a shift was necessary.
“It’s really only a couple times a day before school and after school when that intersection is most busy,” said Klein, noting that only MHS students are allowed to leave campus during lunch time, but not all MHS students choose to do so.
Davis said that the crossing guard’s primary role would be to regulate the flow of student traffic, as opposed to vehicular traffic. “We [currently] don’t have kids platooning in groups as they’re crossing” the intersection, Davis said.
Davis said that, while the position still had to be advertised and crossing guards hired, he hoped the position could be filled and new employees could working by the end of January.
The Town, Police Department and School intend to “use this as a beta test for the rest of the year,” said Davis, to see if crossing guards are an effective traffic control tool.
Davis said that drivers would be beholden to follow the rules of the crossing guard as if they were an officer of the law. “It shows the liability is on [the drivers] because they have to follow traffic laws and regulatory signs,” he said.
Councilman Colin Fernie questioned whether the position could be filled by volunteers. Police Chief Davis did cite the potential for slip-and-fall accidents as a concern regarding Workman’s Compensation regulations.
However, Davis said, “we can’t assuredly put people out there [as volunteers],” and “then we have to worry about training multiple people, not just a couple.” Davis said the budget for hiring the two crossing guards for the rest of the school year would total about $8,000, a cost to be split amongst the MUSD, MCOE and the TOML, with about half coming from MCOE.
“The crossing at Meridian and Sierra Park Road has always been a crossing of concern,” said Superintendent Klein. Hiring the crossing guard “would be a joint effort of supporting it financially between the District, the County Office of Education and the Town, and it’s an example of all of us working together!”