According to the minutes, the New Paltz Village Board voted to create a part-time crossing guard position on April 27, pending a required background check. The guard would watch out for the safety of middle school students who cross the busy intersection on their way to and from the school.
They even interviewed and hired Paul Etess. Or at least that’s what Etess, who works as a crossing guard for the Wallkill Valley and Plattekill school districts, was led to believe.
Etess, of Highland, said that Trustee Brian Kimbiz first asked him if he’d be interested in interviewing for the position, which he was.
“I went in April to be interviewed, they appointed me and then I went to get my fingerprints taken from the state police. They said I needed a card. So I went to the school district and got the card, got fingerprinted and sent it to Albany,” he explained. “Then I heard nothing.”
The silence may have come when there was a changing of the guard on the Village Board, with four out of the five members being replaced during the May 2011 village election.
“I called Mayor West and he said he’d get back to me, that he’d figure it out, but I’ve heard nothing,” said Etess, who said he was certified in a 90-hour crossing guard licensing program paid for by the Plattekill School District.
West, for his part, said that “we’re working on it.” He said that he’s in contact with Superintendent Maria Rice, the chief of police and the town “to resolve this issue.”
The issue, according to West, is that “the prior board created a position contingent upon a background check that the prior Village Board never ran, nor was capable of running.”
West explained that the village is not set up to do background checks, but that “the school district and Police Department are.”
He added that the prior board did put aside a sufficient salary of $10 per hour for a “short time in the morning as students made their way to school and again in the afternoon when school lets out.”
KT Tobin, vice president of the New Paltz School Board, said that “the mayor, the police chief and school district superintendent are having productive discussions in order to resolve this issue. And I am confident that we will have a middle school crossing guard at the start of the coming school year.”
Superintendent Rice did not respond to the New Paltz Times queries on the status of the crossing guard.
At one Village Board meeting, it was suggested that the New Paltz Police Department could provide one of their officers for the approximately two hours a day, during school days, that a crossing guard would be required.
“I don’t know if they have the manpower to do that, but it would be one possible solution because not only are the officers trained in traffic control, but God forbid there should be an accident -- they’re also first responders,” said Mayor West.
Police Chief Joe Snyder said that his department did not have sufficient manpower to do the job.
“At this point the New Paltz Police do not have the manpower to provide a dedicated hour assignment to an officer acting as a crossing guard,” he said. “Unfortunately, we cannot predict when a call or a serious incident will come in, and for the most part we have only two officers working during these times.”
In his experience, he did say that “most communities in our area use crossing guards for this detail, and not just one person. They have backup crossing guards also in case the main guard takes a day off or is sick. Some police agencies do oversee the crossing guards and have a budget line to pay them.”
He acknowledged that he was in discussion with the interested parties and hoped that “we will be meeting to discuss this issue further.”
School opens on Sept. 6 and this particular intersection is highlighted in the Land Use and Transportation Study adopted by both the town and village boards as a high-priority intersection because of its high traffic volume and accident reports.
For his part, Etess would like to know if he has a job in New Paltz.
“School starts soon and they certainly need a crossing guard at that intersection,” he said. “It’s an incredibly dangerous intersection. Before my interview and after I was hired, I parked in the Convenient Deli parking lot and watched. Cars go flying by. They don’t wait for the kids. The kids are talking, not always paying attention. It’s an accident waiting to happen.”