Atchison’s governing body changed up the game on traffic control in downtown at its last regular meeting of the month.
The City Commission voted Monday at City Hall to permanently approve four-way stop signs at N. 4th and Kansas, 3rd and Commercial and 8th and Commercial. However, the motion to do the same for signs at N. 5th and Santa Fe and N. 6th and Santa Fe failed for lack of a second.
At least for the immediate future, the Santa Fe intersections are set to default to two-way regulation only. Traffic on N. 5th and N. 6th streets is set to no longer be required to stop, unless a replacement plan is approved by the commission.
The current temporary signs are located on opposite sides of Atchison Middle School and further discussion is needed with Atchison Public Schools USD No. 409 before a permanent move can be made, commissioners concurred.
On Resolution No. 2580, approving the other three four-way stops, Commissioner Charlie Perdue and Commissioner Dave Butler reaffirmed their opposition, last expressed on March 19 at a similar vote.
This time, Mayor Allen Reavis voted Aye, forming a 3-2 majority with Vice Mayor David Hausmann and Commissioner Shawn Rizza.
Butler had said he preferred limited regulation of the intersections, with paint or other markings to encourage, rather than force, drivers to slow down. However, Assistant City Manager Justin Pregont told commissioners, city staff concluded the stop signs are the best way to go.
Pregont concluded it’s not practical to see if the city can involve local artists in creating an high-profile street marking, as city leaders have previously considered.
“I’m not aware of a paint product that will last long enough to reasonably maintain that kind of thing,” Pregont said. “Particularly if it’s artistic in nature, I don’t feel we have the resources or the time to manage something like that.”
Rizza said an artistically decorated intersection could happen somewhere in town, but it’s not likely to involve a one of these downtown intersections.
Perdue said he’s skeptical of the whole notion that the city has been in need of stepped up traffic regulation.
“We’ve heard from Chief (Mike) Wilson that in the past, there hadn’t been many accidents in downtown, and practically none involving pedestrians at all,” Perdue said. “There was one about a year ago where a boy darted out in front of (a motorist), but a stop sign wouldn’t have done anything there. I don’t see why we just gotta keep adding stop signs, keep adding stop signs.”
Reavis said it may not be warranted to have four-way stops flanking Atchison Middle School when high traffic will mainly be contained to when school begins and ends session.
“The ones by the school, I’d like to see us wait on those two,” he said, “(and) see more conversation with (USD No.) 409. Really, that’s going to be a matter of high use for 30 minutes in the morning and afternoon, nine months out of the year.”
Pregont requested a 30 to 40-day period before the commission either votes on a new proposal for the Santa Fe stop signs or they return indefinitely to a 2-way stop.
If no replacement plan is enacted, he said, city staff will take precautions to keep people from errantly believing that traffic on N. 5th and N. 6th streets will still be required to stop. A “cross traffic does not stop” alert and other warning signs are likely to be installed, Pregont said.
In other business:
Chief Wilson received unanimous commission approval of a memorandum of understanding to seek federal grant monies for school resource officers at USD No. 409.
The memo, having already been backed by the district’s board of education, clears the way for funding to be sought for up to four officers, one for each campus within the district: Atchison Elementary, Atchison Middle, Atchison High and Central School.
Only one officer is likely to be hired at first, based at AHS, as a form of pilot program. The Community Oriented Policing Service (COPS) office, part of the U.S. Department of Justice, is a highly competitive program, Wilson said, and it’s not yet clear how much funding can be obtained.
Flexibility options exist within the program, Wilson said, allowing his department to hire a new, entry-level police officer in an expansion position, and then assigning someone who has been on the force for years to act as the school resource officer (SRO).
“Many communities are seeing a need, really a responsibility to do this, to have a permanent presence at schools,” Wilson said. “We have reached that point in Atchison. The last three or months have seen the staff at (USD No.) 409 and the staff at City Hall become serious about that discussion.”
Rep. John Eplee, R-Atchison, who also serves on the USD No. 409 school board, spoke briefly on the grant program, why he was among his board colleagues to unanimously back the SRO memorandum, and related issues in state politics.
Eplee noted that a bill to authorize teachers to carry a concealed weapon on campus failed in the last legislative session.
“Training of teachers did not go forward,” he said. “The insurance companies didn’t like that. I am open to it. I think there are some districts that might benefit if they have robust training and the district’s insurance provider signs off on it.
“Right now, we’re considering how to have a trained police officer there, where protecting these schools is their job.”
Commissioners noted that they are likely to take further action on the matter once grant funds are awarded, if they are, and the amount and manner of availability becomes known.
In addition, grant funding through the COPS office for security equipment, such as metal detectors, is intended to be part of future conversations about campus security in Atchison.
Heard Stacey Hammond, of Topeka-based Berberich, Trahan and Co., present the comprehensive annual financial report managed by the city’s Interim Finance Director Cari Strieby.
Hammond gave the city a clean bill of fiscal health, saying it’s always a relief to tell a governing body that its finances are not troubled in any significant way.
“I would commend the city on an excellent audit result,” she said. “We don’t see that every day, where we have nothing bad to report.”
Approved by a vote of 4-1, with Perdue dissenting, a request by Pregont for $365,192 to shore up storm drain sewers along Laramie Street in north Atchison. The work will commence immediately to mesh well with sidewalk improvements, Pregont said.
Approved the consent agenda, which entailed authorizing the reservation of the entire tent camping area at Warnock Lake from Sept. 28 to 30 for the benefit of area boy scouts. The scouts, part of the Pony Express Council BSA of the Lewis and Clark District, will hold their Fall Camporall event on those dates.
Approved, following a ten-minute closed-door meeting with counsel, an undisclosed amount to settle pending litigation. City Manager Becky Berger said the amount will not be known to city staff until the city’s liability insurer and the plaintiff reach an agreement in private deliberations.
Held an extended conference on the FY 2019 City of Atchison budget following the adjournment of the regular meeting. The final product will be presented at a public hearing at Noon on Wednesday, Aug. 15.