Looking to make the pick-up and drop-off area at Slater Elementary School safer, the Burns City Council agreed to make portions of North Fairview and West D streets one-way.
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Student safety cited for the change
by Randy Parks
Harney County School District No. 3 Superintendent Dr. Marilyn McBride told the council at its meeting Aug. 14, “It’s about the safety of the kids. In the morning and after school, it’s chaos out there.”
McBride expressed her appreciation for the “crossing guards,” and said, thanks to them, there have been no incidents in front of the school, but the potential is there.
Two blocks of N. Fairview, from W. E Street south to W. C Street, will be one-way from north to south.
One block of W. D Street, from N. Fairview to N. Egan, will be one-way from west to east.
McBride said she spoke with residents in the area of the affected streets, and they supported the proposal.
Brice Mundlin of the Burns Police recommended the streets remain a single lane of traffic, even though they will be one-way. “Two lanes of traffic on a one-way is more dangerous than two-way traffic,” he said.
Councilor Bill Renwick suggested that maybe there could be a “drop-off and pick-up” lane established in front of the school.
The council agreed to have Public Works Director Dave Cullens work with the school district to develop a plan for traffic flow and parking, and make a formal recommendation to the council.
Temporary signs and the one-way streets will be in place by Aug. 26, the first day of school.
The school district also proposed putting gates on North Harney Avenue behind Slater to restrict the amount of traffic in that area. The gates would be closed, but unlocked, during school hours.
McBride stated having the gates closed during school hours would help alert staff members if someone was trying to access the back of the building. “It’s not an ultimate barrier, but staff will notice if someone is back there,” she said.
McBride added the gates wouldn’t affect residents’ access, but it would provide more safety to the students.
The council had some concern about the gates affecting the public works department’s access to two city wells, but because the gates will remain unlocked, there shouldn’t be an issue.
Mundlin suggested the gates be locked open during hours school was not in session.
Because neither the school district nor the city figured the cost of the gates or the one-way signs into their budgets, temporary barriers and signs will be put up until the two entities work out an agreement.
City Manager (CM) Don Munkers reported the city and county are still working to get the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a new hydrological study and more accurate mapping to deal with flood plain issues.
Munkers said the hydrological data currently being used to establish the flood plain, and subsequently, National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) rates, is not accurate. He said the large increase in NFIP rates will have adverse effects on the downtown area, including limiting any growth.
“There is no BFE (Base Flood Elevation),” Munkers said. “How do you comply if there is no BFE? Hopefully, we’ll see changes in the next few years.”
In other business:
• a pre-bid meeting regarding the fire suppression system at the Burns airport will be held on Sept. 11, and on Sept. 18, the city will hold the formal bid openings. CM Munkers stated the system put in place will be enough to have the moratorium lifted by the State Fire Marshal, and as more funds become available, the city will continue to improve the system;
• the city established a fee of $130 per hour for the street sweeper, and $175 per hour for the vacuum truck when either is used outside city limits;
• CM Munkers reported the police and fire departments are discussing the feasibility of combining into a single “safety department” to save money;
• it was announced that Jeff Cotton will be taking over as airport manager;
• Fire Chief Scott Williamson reported the rural fire suppression subscription program is working well. He said all 61 subscribers renewed this year, and they had 16 new members, bringing the total to 77.
Williamson added that the fire department had recently responded to two fire calls from Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center (EOARC), a member of the subscription program, and the cost to EOARC was $300. Had it not been a subscriber, the cost would have been $3,500;
• Tod Gahley was in attendance to request closing a portion of North Diamond Street from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Aug. 23 for a parking lot sale. The council agreed to allow the closure;
• the council discussed a new ordinance that would change the meeting dates for the council from two per month to one. The council took no action on the ordinance;
• the council approved Ordinance No. 13-827, an ordinance amending and restating Title 11 of the Burns Municipal Code, which chapter concerns the regulations governing the operation of the Burns airport;
• Mayor Craig LaFollette commended Fire Chief Williamson on his friendly demeanor while visiting with a resident about the burn ban in effect.
The next council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28, at city hall.