GLEN ROCK – The Board of Education will not fund a portion of a $75,000 traffic study that was commissioned by the Borough Council in February to find solutions for safety issues at its two train stations and five borough schools.
On Oct. 30, trustees unanimously voted down a $10,000 contribution towards funding the middle and high school portion of the study, which costs $20,000.
Many of the trustees stood by their previous views they voiced during earlier meetings, which included finding “non-monetary” solutions to help solve some of the traffic problems in that area, issues they believed were caused by human error and parents parking where they should not.
“I still have so many questions that are unanswered,” Carr said before the vote was cast. “It’s not about the money per say or the safety, I’m concerned mostly that we invest this money and we’re told we have to remediate the situation. That could cost in the millions of dollars. I have to be financially prudent to the taxpayers in that regard. I still think there are things we can do non-monetarily first before we invest $10,000 on a traffic study that we don’t know is going to resolve the problem.”
According to the traffic study proposal, which was sent to the council from engineering firm Remington, Vernick and Arango in February, the goal is to “improve traffic operations and relieve congestion” at Glen Rock’s five borough schools and its two train stations. And, in turn, fortify infrastructure through improved parking facilities and traffic.
The work is proposed in the following three phases: identifying current transportation issues, identifying solutions, and implementing a plan.
The Glen Rock High School and Middle School portion was slated to cost $20,000 and the four other schools – Richard E. Byrd, Central School, Clara E. Coleman, and Alexander Hamilton – were set to cost $15,000. The borough’s Main Line and Borough Hall Stations are priced at $15,000.
Engineer Robert Nash previously said goals of the study include making sure residents have total access to their driveways 24/7; clearing paths emergency vehicles to traverse certain streets without issue; and creating a safe student drop-off/pick-up area for parents, as well as off-street parking for district employees.
“I went to the traffic study on Byrd. I heard what the parents said. It’s becoming almost a, ‘I-don’t-have-a-kid-in-the-school-so-I’m-not-driving versus, ‘I-have-a-kid-in-the-school-and-I-have-to-drive-because-I-have-to-work-and-I-have-to-drive-my-kids-to-activities,’ but that’s not what this town is about,” Carr said. “If we’re going to be a community, we’re going to be a community as a whole and support each other no matter what.”
Trustee Eileen Hillock agreed, saying that while “safety of students is paramount,” the study should be done holistically in lieu of piecemeal.
“Rather than seeing this done poorly, I’d rather see it done right,” Trustee Rona McNabola added.
The one resident who spoke that evening on the traffic study before the contribution vote was taken, concurred with the board that spending the money is not in the best interest of the residents.
“With all due respect to the town,” she said, motioning to Mayor Bruce Packer who was in the audience, “the board has its budget, the town has its budget and both entities need to work within their budgets.”
Board Member Sheldon Hirschberg elaborated that while safety and security of children is the board’s highest priority, budgeting the money would result in problems.
“If we budget it, we are going to have some problems,” he said. “I think it’s going to cost us a lot more than $10,000. I can’t support this. I hope that this discussion continues in the future.”
Board President Bryon Torsiello said part of what prompted his “no” vote was the Alexander Hamilton School on Harristown Road was not included together with the High School traffic study. He said the engineer explained to him that proximity was a problem, as the schools are “sixth-tenths of a mile away” from each other.
Despite the board’s denial of the funds, Torsiello said conversations would continue with the town on the matter at a later date.
Mayor Packer addressed the board after the vote.
“Hearing the perspective of the board, I can’t imagine voting any differently if I was on your side of it,” he said. “Because I know the details are almost irrelevant, it’s a matter of what comes into your ears. And I respect the process and the conversation.”
“If something isn’t done right the first time, maybe we can do it better the next time,” Packer said.
The mayor proposed inviting the engineer during a joint meeting of the mayor and council to discuss the middle and high school portion of the study, at a date not yet determined, so that members of the board can direct their questions to the engineer.
“Let’s make sure the decision is made on having all the facts,” Packer said.