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Council approves school travel plan

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At its Nov. 15 meeting, members of Village Council unanimously endorsed the Safe Routes to School Travel Plan, or SRTS, that will be submitted soon to the Ohio Department of Transportation, or ODOT, for possible funding. The travel plan was developed after extensive community input, according to Dan Carrigan of the Bicycle Enhancement Committee, which is submitting the plan.

The goal of the SRTS team is to increase biking and walking to school by 25 percent within the next three years, according to the plan.

“This melds well with the Village Council’s goal of increasing walkability” in Yellow Springs, he said.

The plan identifies a variety of barriers to students walking and biking to schools, including that only 35 percent of village streets have sidewalks, that some sidewalks are in disrepair, and that students may be forced to bike on busy streets.

To help enhance biking and walking, the plan suggests a variety of improvements, including short-term improvements such as crosswalk enhancements, repair of sidewalk and wheelchair ramps, tree and shrub clearing and the addition of bike racks at all local public schools. Non-infrastructure activities include a variety of educational initiatives, including creating a suggested walk/bike route map, creating a Walking School Bus/Bike Train, and creating a walk/bike to school day for the village.

Mid-term recommendations include traffic signal enhancements and improved signage.

If ODOT approves the travel plan, Yellow Springs will be eligible to apply for federal funding to reimburse the cost of improvements. Infrastructure funding is available up to $500,000 per project, and non-infrastructure funding is available up to $100,000 per year, according to Village Planner Ed Amrhein.

In other Nov. 15 Council business:

• Council declined to support a request to endorse a plan from the Human Relations Commission, or HRC, for a grant application to improve and expand the Village Skate Park.

It was HRC’s first request to Council for the endorsement, which HRC members needed quickly due to a Nov. 29 deadline for a $50,000 grant offered by Pepsi International. The request was rushed because they had just recently become aware of the opportunity, according to Council and HRC member John Booth.

While stating support for the plan’s concept of adding a concrete bowl and a beginners’ section to the area now occupied by the Bryan Center tennis courts, Council members said they could not give official endorsement of the plan due to the lack of community dialogue on the topic.

“We’re talking about some major changes that have not yet been discussed at the community level,” said Council President Judith Hempfling.

Council member Karen Wintrow expressed her concern that skateboard users or their parents did not appear to be involved in the request.

The kids are involved, according to HRC member Joan Chappelle, who said they have met several times with Village Manager Mark Cundiff regarding skate park issues.

• Yellow Springs Chief of Police John Grote gave a presentation on the Village Public Safety Budget. In 2009, the police department budget was $1,190,838, covering the Village’s two square miles and population of 3,761. About 83 percent of expenses are related to personnel, and currently, the force has 10 full-time and 10 part-time employees. In 2009, it answered over 2,251 calls for service and had 28 felony convictions. The local department also operates a dispatch center and participates with the ACE Task Force.

“I understand that in tough budget times, what taxpayers want to know is if they’re getting value for their dollars,” Grote said, adding that “our budget is looked at almost daily to find out how to do better.”

Using a variety of quantitative and qualitative performance markers, Grote presented a report that stated the Yellow Springs department has an average response time of 2.6 minutes from dispatch to police unit arrival, compared to an overall mean of 6.49 minutes response time, 7 minutes in cities over 100,000 or almost five minutes in municipalities under 25,000. The department falls close to the mean in arrests for Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence of Alcohol of Drugs, or OVI, per 1,000 persons, Grote said. In Yellow Springs, the average OVI arrests are 8.5 per 1,000, compared to an overall mean of 5.78 and a mean in municipalities under 25,000 population of 8.76.

Compared to municipalities of similar size, Yellow Springs has more drug-related felony arrests, Grote said, stating that, “We focus on that type of crime.”

However, compared to a municipality of a comparable size, Cedarville, Yellow Springs spends about three times the amount that Cedarville spends on its police department. The difference can be linked to Yellow Springs having a dispatch service while Cedarville does not, that Yellow Springs employs more full-time officers, and that Cedarville is a dry community that does not have a seasonal influx of tourists, as does the village.

• Council unanimously approved a second reading of an ordinance amending a previous agreement with AMP to purchase solar power. The previous ordinance had some inaccurate language that needed to be changed, according to Village Manager Mark Cundiff.

• Council unanimously approved a resolution awarding a replacement contract for the purchase of new, more energy efficient streetlights for the Village. The replacements come at the recommendation of the Village Energy Board, which is charged with recommending energy-saving for Village government facilities, using the $50,000 that is annually allocated to energy conservation.

• Council heard the annual presentation from the Village Mediation Program, presented by program Director Lisa Kreeger. The program focuses on disputes involving neighbors, along with community services including enhancing youth involvement in the community, she said. The VMP seeks additional mediators, and especially seeks more age and race diversity, she said.

• Council heard a report from Village Treasurer Rachel McKinley. While interest on Village investments remains minimal, she has succeeded in reducing bank fees, McKinley said.

• Council had an initial discussion on the formation of a committee to support the Village levy that will go on the ballot in spring 2011. While Village Council is prohibited by law from actively supporting a levy, it can prepare a fact sheet to distribute, according to Cundiff.

• Council’s next meeting will be a special budget workshop on Monday, Nov. 29, at 7 p.m. in the Bryan Center. Its next regular meeting will be Monday, Dec. 6, at 7 p.m. in the Bryan Center.

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