With students about to head back to school for a new year beginning Tuesday, their safety was a topic of discussion by members of the Aberdeen City Council Monday.
Aberdeen has four elementary schools, one middle school and two high schools (Aberdeen High and the Center for Educational Opportunity) in its municipal boundaries and many of students who attend them walk to school.
Bob Hartman, who lives on Paradise Road, asked the council members if the police department and/or the school system had made any arrangements to ensure the safety of students crossing Route 22 at Paradise Road when walking to Aberdeen High School. Construction is still underway at the intersection, which is being upgraded by the State Highway Administration.
"School is starting shortly, and Paradise Road is not equipped for kids who have to cross 22," Hartman, who lives on Paradise Road, told the council members.
SHA is aware of the issues and has taken steps to maintain safety, the agency's Media Relations Manager Charlie Gischlar said Wednesday.
The sidewalks on the east side of Paradise Road are closed, and a temporary sidewalk has been installed on the west side, Gischlar said.
A detour crossing is in place for students to cross Paradise Road from the Hillcrest neighborhood to the temporary sidewalk, he said.
New temporary crosswalks, with bright striping, have been installed on Route 22, where signals have countdowns to alert walkers when it's safe to cross. They will cross on the west side of Paradise, he said.
"We have it in mind already," Gischlar said.
Hartman had suggested the city contact the Harford County Sheriff's Office, since Aberdeen Police Department has limited resources, to provide a crossing guard at the intersection, at least for the first week of school.
"Really, if I was a parent, I would be really upset to watch my kids go down that road to go to school," said Hartman, who doesn't have kids at Aberdeen High but drives the intersection regularly.
He said he suspects the issues are the same at Mount Royal Avenue, where there is also construction.
Councilman Tim Lindecamp, a teacher and athletic director at Aberdeen High, said he would speak with the principal.
Also in the interest of student safety, the city will use an $87,130 Community Development Block Grant to make sidewalk repairs on East Bel Air Avenue in the vicinity of Halls Cross Roads Elementary School.
"The sidewalk really is in bad condition," Phyllis Grover, director of planning and community development, said.
Before deciding to use the grant money for the sidewalks, council members asked Grover to find other possible projects. They include repaving projects on Chesapeake court, Schofield Avenue, Valley Road, Custis Street and Rock Road.
Just one of those, however, totaled close to the amount of the grant.
Grover still recommended the sidewalks, "thinking of the safety of our children."
The council agreed and voted unanimously to award the sidewalk contract, for $84,969, to Frank J. Goettner Construction Co. Inc. of Edgewood.
Grover, who said the contractor is ready to begin the project, said Aberdeen should be awarded another CDBG grant in September and one of the road repaving projects would be considered then.
"I think you found a lot of good projects," McGrady said. "We've got a lot of roads that are pretty beat up."
Fee schedule revisions
The council held a public Monday on revisions to the city's fee schedule but did not take a vote.
The city, which absorbs all fees associated with credit card payments — more than $40,000 so far this year, is proposing to begin charging people who pay their city property tax and utility bills using credit cards.
Fees would be applied to electronic payments, according to the proposed changes. A fee of 2.99 percent of the transaction amount, or the amount of the fee charged by the processor, whichever is lower, to property tax bill payments, and a $7.50 fee, or amount charged by the processor, would be applied to electronic utility bill payments.
During the hearing, Hartman suggested the council charge a fee for all payments made by credit card, in person and online, and for all city bills, not just property tax and utility bills as proposed.
"We'll look into that, Mr. Hartman, that's good advice," said Mayor Patrick McGrady, who typically asks that any new ordinances not be voted on the night of a hearing.
Theresa Spencer and Glenda Phillips asked the council for help with the repeated flooding problems they have in their neighborhood.
Spencer, who lives in the 200 block of Baltimore Street, brought pictures to show the council of the flooding "so you can see how bad my property gets when it storms," she said.
"It all comes downhill to Baltimore and Plater, and nobody has tried to help us," Spencer said.
She said the city suggested she build a trench, but that would only pass the flooding along to someone else.
"I've been through it, I know what it is," she said, asking the city again for help. "What we need is a bigger pipe."
Phillips, of the 600 block of Market Street, said the streets in front of her house flood and "it causes a raging river."
She also provided pictures to the council.
Phillips suggested the city put a camera down the pipe and see if it's clogged. When that has been done in the past, she said, they've found tree roots and a bicycle.
"I've been here lots of times," she said. "The answer before has been 'the city doesn't have the money.' My answer is 'I really don't have the money for my taxes.'"
McGrady said there are six to seven problem spots in the city the public works department is looking into.
City Manager Randy Robertson told Spencer and Phillips public works staff would run a camera down the pipe this week "to see if any major substances are down there."