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Village Council— Improving school bikeway safety

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Recent concerns about the safety of students traveling on West South College Street have prompted the Village to look into improving bikeways on that route. At its Nov. 7 meeting, Council heard from Superintendent of Public Works Jason Hamby regarding options for improving markings on the road, resurfacing the existing bike path or potentially expanding the path to create a more substantial travel lane for bicycles and pedestrians. This latter option would be costly and requires more investigation before a proposal could be presented, according to Hamby.

Hamby noted that the existing bikeway is in “relatively good shape” and could be resurfaced by an outside contractor with a special paver at a cost of between $7,392 and $8,580. An additional resurfacing of the bikeway along Dayton Street, also under consideration, would cost between $7,056 and $8,190. 

Any asphalt work undertaken would not be started until the spring. In the meantime, Council agreed on two steps to improve safety for students commuting to school by bike. One is to restripe the double-yellow center line and add “sharrow” markings to West South College Street, and potentially Dayton Street, to indicate that the travel lane is shared by bicycles and cars. The cost of adding seven sharrows to the West South College Street between Xenia Avenue and East Enon Road would be $250, according to Hamby. The second step is to investigate the addition of a stop sign at Barbara Street to slow down traffic along the West South College corridor.

The issue of the West South College Street bikeway came up because cars tend to travel rapidly along that road, and the poor condition of the bike path does not permit students bicycling to and from the high school to use the full length of the path. Students often bike in the road, sometimes several abreast, according to observers. Gerald Simms, who lives on the street, raised concerns at a previous meeting.

Also at the meeting was Sergeant Naomi Watson, who described the enforcement challenges along the road. Gaunt Park is the only feasible place for police to have a presence, she said, but monitoring car speeds from that location is limited to one direction. Watson added that she had spoken to Yellow Springs High School Principal Tim Krier about bike safety issues, and the high school is working on increasing bike safety awareness among students.

Council discussed the need to consider the West South College Street bikeway in the context of bike paths elsewhere in the village.

“I want to make sure we think bigger picture,” said Council Vice President Brian Housh. “Investing in small corridors without an overall plan” was not desirable, he added.

But Council member Judith Hempfling advocated finding a pragmatic fix for the West South College area. “We’re not going to have a standard bike path there,” she said. “We need a practical solution.”

In other Nov. 7 Council business:

• The Village of Yellow Springs now owns the 35-acre parcel of land known as the CBE. According to Village Manager Patti Bates, the closing on the land transfer from local economic development group Community Resources to the Village took place Friday, Nov. 4. The transfer is in exchange for the forgiveness of a $300,000 no-interest loan made by the Village to Community Resources for its purchase of the property in 2003. An appraisal this summer estimated the current land value at $650,000.

Next steps for the land include extending utilities to the property entrance. That work is expected to begin in the spring. And the Economic Sustainability Commission has been tasked with planning a forum on potential uses of the CBE land, a topic of intense public interest and controversy. Forum plans will be discussed at Council’s Nov. 21 meeting.

• Council approved 5–0 the first reading of the ordinance containing the 2017 budget. The Village budget anticipates total appropriations of $9,586,445 in 2017, with appropriations to the general fund of just over $3 million. That spending level is lower than the previous three years, according to Assistant Village Manager/Finance Director Melissa Vanzant. The general fund, considered an index of municipal fiscal health, is expected to end the year with a slight deficit (more expenses than revenue) of $33,446. However, the general fund will retain reserve balances, or surplus monies, of around $1.6 million. There will be a second reading of the 2017 budget ordinance at Council’s Nov. 21 meeting.

• Council approved 5–0 the first reading of an ordinance revising the Village’s investment policy. According to Village Treasurer Rachel McKinley at the meeting, the revisions bring the Village policy into compliance with changes in Ohio law and practice. The Village’s investment policy was last updated in 1999.

• Council approved 5–0 the first reading of two ordinances revising aspects of police department staffing and pay. One ordinance allows for more flexibility in the number and type of supervisory staff positions, replacing a previous requirement that the force have one captain and two sergeants. The other ordinance raises the rate of pay for sergeant and captain positions. Sergeants will now be paid 8 percent above the highest paid officer (previously, the rate was 3 percent above the regular rate of pay for officers).

The police department currently has two sergeants on the force, and is looking to add a third by promoting an officer from within the ranks, according to Village Manager Bates. There is not presently a captain in the department. In addition, the department’s overall staffing level is being reduced to nine fulltime officers, from its previous level of 10. Three officers have left the force in recent months, while one new officer has been hired and another is being sought. The third vacancy will not be filled. The Village will save $79,000 from the staffing level reduction, after factoring in the pay increases and new sergeant position.

The changes will “still provide adequate staffing, but provide better supervision,” Bates said.

• Council approved 5–0 an ordinance that funds a part-time station manager position for Channel 5/Community Access. The position, currently held by Susan Gartner, was previously paid on an independent contractor basis, which a change in the law no longer allows.

• Council approved 5–0 two ordinances that amend the Village zoning code, one updating the fee for right-of-way vacations, and the other correcting the required side-yard setback from 25 to 20 feet total.

• Council unanimously approved a motion to allow the Miami Township Fire and Rescue to do a controlled burn of the farmhouse on Sutton Farm, which is in serious disrepair.

• Council unanimously approved a motion brought by Council member Marianne MacQueen on behalf of the Beaver Management Team, a local group, to pay for the materials required to construct a flow device in a beaver dam on private property in the Thistle Creek development, pending approval by the property owner. The cost of materials is estimated to be $200–$250. The group is also installing a flow device in a second beaver dam downstream from Thistle Creek, on the Village-owned Glass Farm property. That device is being paid for by a grant, which does not pertain to private property. The devices are a way to preserve the beaver dams while ensuring water flow through the dams, needed to maintain normal water levels.

The next regular meeting of Village Council will be held Monday, Nov. 21, in Council chambers.

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