Members of the School Board are upset with city officials for turning down their request to seek a study of traffic flow patterns on highways at Northside, DeKalb Middle, and DCHS.
During Thursday night's meeting, board members voted to try again. They will now ask the county attorney, Hilton Conger and city attorney, Vester Parsley to make contact with the County Technical Advisory Service CTAS and the Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) to request a traffic study on behalf of both city and county governments.
In October, the Board of Education voted to ask the Smithville Mayor and Board of Aldermen to formally request the Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) to conduct a cost free study of traffic flow patterns and to make suggestions for relieving congestion on highways at Northside Elementary as well as DCHS and DeKalb Middle School in Smithville.
Mayor Taft Hendrixson denied the request in a letter dated November 16, stating that the school board could seek the traffic study through CTAS. "I have two concerns about this request and I have consulted our attorney about my concerns," wrote Mayor Hendrixson.
"Even though in the Smithville city limits, Northside, Middle, and High School are all located on State highways, any physical changes to those highways would be the State of Tennessee's decision. DeKalb County has access to the sister arm of MTAS. This is CTAS which does the same for counties as does MTAS for cities. Since this is a county organization requesting this to be done it is my and our attorney's opinion you should make this request to the county's technical service CTAS or maybe even to the Tennessee Department of Safety," wrote Mayor Hendrixson.
"The City of Smithville is diligent in trying to keep all streets and roadways safe. The patrol division of our Police Department put special patrols on school zones for the safety of all citizens," wrote Mayor Hendrixson.
School Board Chairman Charles Robinson, during Thursday night's meeting, said he has contacted CTAS since receiving Mayor Hendrixson's letter. Robinson said it is his understanding that both CTAS and MTAS would be willing to work together to do a traffic study as long as both the city and county request it. "I contacted CTAS and talked to the assistant director Mr. Robin Roberts and he reports that he has spoken to Mr. Rex Barton, who is the one who would do the traffic study with MTAS. Their recommendation is that Mr. Barton along with Mr. Roberts, the assistant director of CTAS, along with the CTAS people who make recommendations to county law enforcement, do a traffic study with the City of Smithville and the School Board. It would be of no cost to the county government or to the city," said Robinson.
Fifth district board member W.J. (Dub) Evins, III said he can't understand why the city is so reluctant to work with the school board on this effort. " I don't understand why this is such a hot potato and no one wants to deal with it. We (school board) are not in the policing business. We should be completely out of this. There are issues between the city and county that are of much more magnitude than what we're talking about here. We're asking the City of Smithville to ask for a free study and they are basically refusing to do that. Is that my understanding?, " asked Evins
Board Chairman Robinson responded, "yes".
Evins continued, "We had a right to request it (traffic study) but we should not have to request it. That should be something that the city should be willing and eager to do especially since its free. This is nothing. Its just asking for a study for the safety of our 2,800 students in this system and the thirty five buses that are coming in and out of there and the other parents that are bringing a thousand students to school each day. Out of the 2,800 there's approximately 1,800 to 1,900 on buses. There's another thousand that are being brought to school by their parents or driving themselves and we're asking for a study to determine the safety of the transportation of these students. That should be quite simple," said Evins.
Director of Schools Mark Willoughby said this effort to get a traffic study has been underway for several months."We made a request with MTAS. We were directed indirectly by some people from the Department of Safety to do this. We made that request and after making that request MTAS said since it was in the City of Smithville then the City of Smithville should make that request. We asked the mayor to make the request and we're at the same place that we were. It needed to come through the city and we still don't have our study done," said Willoughby.
In August, Board Chairman Robinson wrote a letter to Rex Barton, Police Management Consultant for MTAS, requesting a traffic study at Northside Elementary, DCHS and DeKalb Middle School. "On behalf of the DeKalb County Board of Education, I am requesting a traffic study. We are experiencing congestion and difficulty entering and exiting three of our schools. The locations are Northside Elementary on North Congress Boulevard and DCHS and DeKalb Middle School on West Broad Street in Smithville."
Barton responded in a letter to Robinson in September, stating that the request would have to come from the City of Smithville "An MTAS Public Works Consultant and I can review the infrastructure and traffic patterns to determine what physical or traffic flow changes might benefit the traffic issues around the schools"
"MTAS exists to provide consulting services to Tennessee cities. The schools you reference are in the city of Smithville, but the city will have to make the request for the traffic study. I am copying this letter to Mayor Taft Hendrixson to ensure he is aware of your request", wrote Barton.
"I realize nobody wants anybody to get hurt and we want all of our children to be safe so surely we can get both entities to work together and say we want to do this study. Its going to be no cost to anyone. Now they might recommend something that's going to cost some money and then we'll have to decide if somebody is going to pay for it or not going to pay for it. But just getting a recommendation that's free shouldn't be a problem," said Director Willoughby.
Fourth district member Billy Miller made a motion to "make a request of the attorney for the City of Smithville and the county attorney, asking that they sit down and contact CTAS to come up with such a study for the school system. I make that in the form of a motion to do so," said Miller. The motion was amended to also request that the city and county attorneys respond to the school board within thirty days as to whether they will agree to make contact with CTAS.
In other business, Director Willoughby updated the board on personnel moves.
Those employed since the last meeting are:
Carl Malone, custodian at DCHS
Thomas Fitts, substitute bus driver
Pam Baines, cafeteria manager at Northside Elementary School
Melvin Young, teacher at DCHS will resign as of February
The board approved a request to offer new classes at DCHS for the 2012-13 school year in the Career and Technical Education area including Culinary Arts I, II, and III in the Family and Consumer Science Area; and Computer Applications, Interactive Multimedia Presentations, Web Design Essentials, Web Design Applications, and Banking and Finance under Business Technology; and Calculus 2, Linear Algebra, and Multivariable Calculus.
Lisa Bell, Data Analysis Leader for the school system, gave a presentation on the results of the state's report card on DeKalb County Schools..
The new building trades house, which is now for sale, has drawn some interest from a couple of people, according to Director Willoughby but no one has yet committed to making the purchase.
The board will hold a special meeting on December 13 at 5:00 p.m. to act on a FEMA grant application which would provide funds for school systems affected by floods and tornadoes.
The board will have a yearly evaluation of the director of schools on January 12 at 5:30 p.m. followed by the regular meeting at 7:00 p.m.