With two Villages Charter schools set to open Aug. 10 in the new Middleton area, Wildwood commissioners would not agree Monday to a request for the city to provide crossing guards at five locations for at least four hours on school days.
A motion by Commissioner Joe Elliott to provide the crossing guards failed on a 2-2 vote. Commissioner Pamala Harrison-Bivens was absent and the issue likely will be considered again when all commissioners are present.
The Villages request stated that the crossing guards are needed because many students will walk to school from the Middleton family neighborhood. Crossing guards were not provided at the charter school location on County Road 466.
Middleton is east of Central Parkway, formerly County Road 470, near the Coleman federal prison.
About 300 homes have been built in Middleton of an eventual 7,000 and up to 4,000 students are expected to attend the charter schools.
The request noted that other county governments hire, train and staff crossing guard programs. The schools would fund the program, which would be administered and maintained by the city.
An analysis by Police Chief Randy Parmer found that staffing would require posting of the position, interviews, background checks and medical examinations. A day of training by the Florida Department of Transportation also is required.
“While the potential rate of pay for crossing guard program has yet to be determined, it will have a financial impact on the city of Wildwood,” Parmer wrote in a memo. “Other factors would include any equipment or benefits that the employees may be entitled to.”
The chief told commissioners that if volunteers are used, some may be retirees who may not want to work outside during hot summer weather. He said seven guards would be needed to staff the five locations. When Middleton expands, he said crossing guards may be needed at 10 intersections.
Parmer said the department already has plans to deal with the increased traffic in the area, but that it wouldn’t be financially wise to use well-paid police officers as crossing guards.
Elliott expressed strong support for the crossing guard program.
“I think it’s a damn good idea,” he said, adding that Lady Lake and Leesburg offer the service. “I think it’s an obligation for us to step up and do it.”
But Mayor Ed Wolf said the city would be unable to get the program running in a month.
“There is a lot more than it looks like on the surface,” he said. “If we’re going to do it for the charter schools, we’re going to have to do it for the other schools as well.”
He said the afternoon hours could be longer if crossing guards also are provided for students attending after-school activities.
Voting with Wolf against the plan, Commissioner Julian Greene said he wanted to table it until all commissioners were present and could have a full discussion. Commissioner Marco Flores and Elliott voted in favor of the proposal.