Standoff over crossing guard

 

It appears that after all of the discussion and lobbying that there will not be a crossing guard at the corner of Main Street and Manheim Boulevard when New Paltz Middle School students return for their first day of school on Sept. 6. Despite the pleas of School Board Vice President KT Tobin and parents of students who have to walk to the middle school, no vote had been put in motion and nothing decided last week, during the joint town and village board meeting.

“If you can work so cooperatively to manage one of the worst floods/storms we’ve had, then I can only hope that figuring out how to put a crossing guard on Main Street should be easy in comparison,” the school board veep said.

However, it was not “that easy” when town and village officials met.

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Parents had pleaded with the past Village Board, under Dungan’s administration, to put in a crossing guard at the dangerous, busy intersection. Children who live close to the school are not given an option for public bussing, and they are forced to cross.

The former Village Board voted to fund and approve a part-time position of a crossing guard for the early morning and afternoon hours when school lets in and lets out. They even hired a veteran crossing guard to do so.

But Mayor Jason West said that the position was “not created lawfully,” and that “no civil service position had been created.” Moreover, he said that “the village does not have the capacity to do the background checks required for a person working with school children.”

At the joint meeting, he updated his fellow trustees and Town Board members as to the research that had been collected whereby neighboring municipalities in Ulster County, which had schools in their village or town centers, required crossing guards.

West went through each and every municipality, and the majority of them vetted their crossing guards through their police department. Background checks were done by the police department and funding for the position was earmarked by a host of agencies — the police, the town government, the village and the school district. Each place in Ulster County had a unique funding mix.

West went on to say that he met with the chief of the New Paltz Police Department, town Supervisor Toni Hokanson, school Superintendent Maria Rice. He came to the conclusion that “in each case the police department was involved to some extent. They have the infrastructure, the background vetting — we do not.”

The New Paltz Central School District offered to do the background checks necessary, but West said that the village attorney felt that this would be a “liability to the village.”

Police Chief Joe Snyder offered to have the crossing guard be trained by them, clock in and out, utilize dispatchers if they couldn’t make it or needed a back-up.

Several people, including Supervisor Hokanson. said it “made no sense to hire a NPPD officer to do that job when they only have two people on per day and get paid anywhere from $65 to $80 an hour.”

Councilman Jeff Logan recalled being a crossing guard himself as a youngster in New Paltz, and Deputy Mayor Sally Rhoads also said that in her hometown she was part of a similar program.

“I have no information in front of me to review or inform any decision,” Logan said.

Hokanson countered that this was “discussion.” The discussion ended abruptly when neither municipality could decide who was on first or what was on second.

In the end, it appeared that they wanted the school board to recommend a crossing guard and that the town could then ask the NPPD to hire, train and do a background check on that person.

However, there was concern, particularly by the supervisor. that anyone “hired” by the NPPD might be folded into their union “bargaining agreement.”

By the end of the joint meeting, the crossing guard point had fallen hard — even with an individual hired and prepared to start the job by the previous Village Board. ++

 

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