MOUNT AIRY — A traffic study at a busy intersection near Mount Airy Elementary School was intended to clear up confusion over whether a crossing guardis needed to ensure the safety of pedestrian school children.
Butresults of the three-day survey of the corner of North Main Street and Watersville Road only stoked debate on the topic at Monday night'sTown Council meeting.
In the end, the council agreed to delay a decision on the crossing guard until the town conducts its own speed study.
"If we have aproblem with speeding, and we get out there and confirm it, we can start doing something about it," said Councilman Marcum Nance.
For years, residents who live near the school have complained that the intersection's heavy traffic volumes and disregard for the speed limit pose a hazard to children who walk to school.
During a recent five-year stretch, four children were struck by cars.
Last fall, the council appointed a volunteer crossing guard. But the guard, RobinwoodDrive resident Vivian Day, was discharged after about five months when the council became concerned over town liability and over Day's performance.
Day was discharged by the council in March when town officials realized they lacked proper insurance in the event of a childbeing struck near the intersection while a town-appointed crossing guard was on duty.
The council also had received criticism from Tfc. Edward Muller about Day's performance, charges that Day, a mother of three, contested. The trooper reported that Day tended to stop free-flowing traffic instead of waiting for breaks, positioned herself across the street from where the children entered the intersection and used no hand signals.
However, Day, who received no training and little direction for the job, responded that she did as she was instructed and had no reason to believe the town was unsatisfied with her work.
While trying to solve insurance issues, the council approved lowering the speed limit near the intersection from 25 mph to 15 mph.The council also asked state police -- who serve as the town's law-enforcement officers -- to conduct a survey in hope of shedding some light on whether traffic volumes and speeds warrant reinstating the crossing guard.
At Monday's meeting, Muller presented the findings from the September survey. The average number of children crossing thestreet during the 30-minute observations before and after school was33, the trooper said.
The waiting time for a safe crossing rangedfrom 11 seconds to 45 seconds, a reasonable wait by standard guidelines, Muller said.
Meanwhile, an average of 89 vehicles passed through the crosswalk, including 30 school buses, with general observanceof the speed limit, he said. The trooper concluded a crossing guard is not needed.
That drew objections from Day and other residents of Friendly Acres, a neighborhood adjacent to the school.
The residents contend some children often wait two minutes for a safe crossing. They also said the reason motorists obeyed the speed limit was the presence of Muller's marked police car.
"We're not just out to geta crossing guard, we just want something done so these children can get to and from school safely," Day said.
Mayor Gerald R. Johnson Jr. said town administrators will attempt to get a radar gun and check the intersection themselves. The mayor said a more accurate readingof vehicle speeds might be obtained with no police car present.
Muller told the council that the county roads department likely would have a radar device it could lend the town. Johnson said he hoped results of town's speed study would be presented at the council's Nov. 4meeting.