MOUNT AIRY — A tremendous sigh of relief went up among a group of residents last fall when the Town Council appointed a volunteer crossing guard for abusy corner near Mount Airy Elementary School.
The appointment followed years of pleas from residents of the nearby Friendly Acres neighborhood for a guard to help students through the intersection of North Main Street and Watersville Road, where four school children hadbeen struck by cars over a five-year stretch.
But the relief turned to anger last week when the council relieved the crossing guard of her duties. Friendly Acres residents complained vehemently, but the council said it had no choice.
The town wasnot insured if there were an accident involving a student crossing through the intersection, said Council President R. Delaine Hobbs Jr.
Also, after observing the intersection, a state police trooper wascritical of the work of volunteer guard Vivian Day, a Robinwood Drive resident.
Though Day had been at least temporarily relieved, thecouncil said Monday it remains committed to having the intersection supervised. But before a guard returns, the council said, proper insurance must be arranged and a new ordinance that provides adequate training must be drafted.
"We've got to go back and do it the right way," Councilman Marcum Nance said at Monday's meeting. "We're trying to put together a package so when the crossing guard is there, not only are the kids protected, but the town's protected, too."
Controversy began when the intersection was observed by a state police trooper in mid-March.
Tfc. Edward Muller was stationed near the intersection for three days in mid-March for speed-control duty. Day had complained that motorists were routinely exceeding the 25 mph speed limit, making her job difficult and the situation dangerous.
But in a report to the council, the trooper said he was less worried about speeding motorists than about Day.
Muller reported Day tended to stopfree-flowing traffic instead of waiting for breaks in traffic, positioned herself across the street from where the children entered the intersection and used no hand signals.
Then on March 13, Day was unable to tend to the intersection because she was called to work, and sent her 13-year-old daughter, Shannon, instead, the trooper said.
That's when the council relieved Day, for now, a move that brought angry Friendly Acres residents to Monday's meeting.
Day, a mother of three, disputes she was creating a hazardous situation.
"I've had no problems out there," Day, 37, said Thursday. "When I started in November, there were no questions. They (town officials) told me I was insured."
The council accepted at least partial blame for the situation, mostly because Day was given no training and little direction, only a reflective vest and a stop sign.
"We did it (passed theoriginal measure) without good thought and without looking at the facts," Nance said.
Day's neighbors came her defense at Monday's meeting.
"She did as she was told," said Friendly Acres resident Carol Mullins.
Council members reacted with alarm when told Day's daughter was working at the intersection. But Day said town officials were aware that her daughter was assisting. Both were invited to town's annual volunteer appreciation dinner in February.
Day said she also has been invited to an appreciation dinner thrown by the school.
"If I'm doing such a bad job, how come I'm getting invited to all these dinners?" she said.
Monday the council said revised legislation would provide for a one-week training course and arrangement of back-up crossing guards.
Day said she hopes to be reinstated.
"I want to keep doing it," she said. "I look at those kids as my kids andI was doing it for them."