Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Civic leader forces action on PCMS crosswalk - Crier

The good folks over at the Dunwoody Crier have a close out article regarding the intersection at Peachtree Charter Middle School which mentions me by name. In reality, I was just the mouthpiece for the residents & school families affected and I'm glad it turned out so well. For the background history, click here.

By Bill Florence for The Crier

The great school crosswalk controversy is over. After almost three months of finger pointing between DeKalb County and DeKalb school system officials, a county public works crew has completed the re-striping of a crosswalk for Peachtree Charter Middle School at the intersection of North Peachtree Road and Kings Point Drive. Now that the striping project to realign the crosswalk at the new school entrance is complete, the only remaining detail left to finish at the intersection is Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant curb ramps.

The issue came to a head back in December when John Heneghan, President of the Dunwoody North Civic Association, began to publicly complain about the apparent stalemate between school and county officials over who was responsible for completing the crosswalk in front of the school.

The old crosswalk that remained painted on North Peachtree after the new middle school opened last August had worked fine for the former middle school on the same site. For the new school, however, the old crosswalk led children directly into the school’s main driveway.

Pat Pope, chief operations officer for the school system, was adamant from the beginning that, because North Peachtree was a county-maintained road, the county government was legally responsible for the roadway and intersection improvement in front of the school.

According to a December 11 email from Pope to Heneghan, however, Pope informed Heneghan the county had asked the school system to pay for, and perform, the work, estimated to cost approximately $50,000.

We are paying for the work under strong objections,” wrote Pope. “As you can imagine, we will never get reimbursed.”

Fast forward to the end of February. At this point, work had yet to begin to stripe the new crosswalk. Peggy Allen, with the county’s traffic and safety engineering department, sent an e-mail to Heneghan, the school system, and others, in which she claimed the school system was taking responsibility for having their general contractor for the middle school stripe the crosswalk at the intersection.

“Our construction activities are complete at this location,” wrote Allen. Allen did agree that her department would come out to evaluate the timing of the traffic light at the intersection and to make any necessary adjustments.

Heneghan objected to the school system paying for the intersection’s improvements. He discovered a 2002 memorandum written by the county’s Law Department that stated that the county was responsible for funding any traffic improvements on public roads outside a school’s campus.

Heneghan forwarded this memorandum to county and school officials earlier this month. On March 7, he received an email from Ted Rhinehart, Director of the DeKalb Public Works Department, that appeared to bring closure to the controversy over who was responsible for the work at the school’s intersection.

“Ms. Allen is working with the traffic and construction crews and/or contractors to do whatever striping or curb ramps are needed at the location below; as you saw from her previous note below, she understood from Mr. Young that the school had contracted for that scope of work, but now finding out that this was not the case, she’s proceeding in getting the work done as soon as the crews and/or contractors can fit it in,” wrote Rhinehart.

Heneghan is pleased the matter is close to being resolved, and that children crossing North Peachtree to go to the middle school will have a new, safe crosswalk to use.

“My community is looking forward to this project being completed in the very near future. I would like to thank everyone at the county and with the school system for their time and professionalism in handling this situation."

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