When Jarvis Middle School students reach the crosswalk at the intersection of Grove and West Main streets in Mohawk, they often have to wait, and wait some more, before they can cross Main Street.
There currently is no regular crossing guard at the intersection, although the position has been advertised since summer, when the crossing guard who held the position for 23 years retired.
“We’ve advertised on Facebook and in the paper,” said police Chief Joseph Malone. Only one person has applied and that individual was not qualified, he added.
“We’re still advertising. We know it’s a concern,” said the chief. The police help when they can, he said, but with only one officer on patrol during the day, they are not always available.
That means there’s no one to help children across the street, and that’s a problem, according to JoAnn Duga. She picks up her grandson after school most days and sees the cars parked on Grove and Main streets, waiting for the children to be released.
The situation isn’t as bad in the morning when children are being dropped off, she said, but the afternoon pick-up period is another matter.
“The traffic goes way too fast for these children to cross without help,” she said in a Facebook post. “This is a paid job. Inquire at the Mohawk PD right away.”
Duga also is concerned about parked cars on West Main Street blocking visibility for both children and drivers.
She said she substituted for the regular crossing guard in the past and sometimes steps in to help children cross the street, "but I don't have a stop sign or a vest." In one case, a driver simply pulled around her and waved while she was in the street trying to stop traffic.
The school district is aware of the problem. Central Valley School Superintendent Jeremy Rich said the district has reached out to the village about the situation.
“The village is trying to find people to do it, and they are struggling to fill the position,” he said in an email.
On a recent Friday, cars started lining up on Grove and West Main streets shortly after 2 p.m. to wait to pick up students.
At around 2:30, vehicles started moving, and some students made their way down Grove Street to the intersection with West Main Street. Some ran across as soon as they spotted a break in traffic. The rate of traffic picked up as another cluster of students reached the intersection and waited, watching for a chance to cross. A woman got out of her car, walked into the crosswalk area and yelled at a westbound driver, "When you see kids, stop."
The kids hurried across the street. When asked if they usually had to wait to cross, they said they did.
"It takes forever," said one boy.
Signs at the crosswalk warn that children could be crossing the street there, and a free-standing sign next to the road points out that state law requires motorists to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk. The Uniform Traffic Control rules permit signs mentioning the school or reducing the speed limit only if the school is on that street, Malone said.
The village has a crossing guard on Columbia Street, and the mayor and village board, as well as the police department, are committed to filling the position on Main Street as well, said the chief.
The Times Telegram reached out to neighboring communities to ask if they have had similar problems filling crossing guard positions.
Fewer crossing guards needed
Herkimer Chief Michael Jory said the village has one crossing guard, who is stationed at the intersection of Steuben and German streets.
“We had two, but after one left, we didn't replace him,” he said. The location is determined based on the amount of traffic.
“We haven’t heard any complaints, but we watch it,” he said. He has not had to replace a crossing guard.
Ilion has one crossing guard stationed on Barringer Road near Barringer Road Elementary School, according to Ilion Police Chief Timothy Parisi. There were four or five at one time, but following the merger of Mohawk and Ilion schools to form the Central Valley district, most students are transported by bus or private vehicle.
He admits the job is not for everyone. “It's not great pay. You're out there for an hour or hour and a half in the morning and again in the afternoon. You have to deal with the elements.” Still, some people are dedicated to the job and do it for years, he said, and admits he has wondered how difficult it might be to fill a vacancy.
Malone said he appreciates the parents and grandparents who have helped out in Mohawk, but hopes someone will step forward to take the paid position on a regular basis. Applications are available at the village office and applicants must pass a background check.
Donna Thompson is the government and business reporter for the Times Telegram. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Times Telegram: Lack of a crossing guard causes safety concerns in Mohawk