By Cary Shuman
Scott Kinsella, a Gorman Fort Banks Elementary School parent, said he was pleased by the Town Council’s decision Tuesday night to prohibit Department of Public Works staff from using the only access road to the school during children drop-off and pick-up times.
Winthrop DPW headquarters and the school are located on Kennedy Drive, sometimes leading to a snarled traffic situation during the time periods when parents drop off and pick up their children at the school. The traffic situation was exacerbated Friday when the school had to be evacuated due to a high carbon monoxide reading inside the building.
Friday’s situation and the major snowstorms this winter that have created traffic problems near the school no doubt hastened Kinsella’s decision to appear before the Council and the Council’s immediate action on the matter.
Following much discussion, the Council requested that Town Manager James McKenna implement the new traffic plan beginning on Monday, Feb. 28, the first day after February school vacation. Basically no DPW work vehicles will be allowed on the road between 7:45-8:15 a.m., and 1:50-2:15 p.m., except in the case of an emergency.
“I’m very happy with the solution,” said Kinsella, who brought the issue to light during the public speaking portion of the meeting, also presenting a petition signed by school parents to the Council. “I think the council president [Jeffrey Turco] and the town manager both stepped up on this. I had email dialogue for quite some time and I’m very appreciative that the president pushed the issue and the town manager acknowledged it and at least addressed a portion of the problem.”
McKenna noted that he was aware of the parents’ concerns about their children’s safety in relation to the traffic and vehicular parking on the side of the road.
“By no means do we disagree that there’s a very real problem there and we were working very diligently,” said McKenna. “I think everyone involved wants the same outcome: safety for kids, No. 1; and No. 2, improve the accessibility up there as best we can. We’re also looking at a longer-term solution there.”
Action on the matter almost hit a roadblock when Councilor Nicholas DelVento suggested that a vote by the Council would violate the open meeting law.
“I don’t think we can even vote on a motion tonight because it’s not on the agenda and it violates open meeting law and we have to wait until the next meeting to bring it up,” DelVento said.
But Turco felt otherwise.
“We’re not voting on anything tonight but we could vote on something tonight because the open meeting law does allow you to bring stuff up that comes up and is not expected,” said Turco. “You put items on the agenda that you reasonably expect to come before you and to say to a group of parents who are concerned about their children killed by a front loader, ‘sorry, you violated the open meeting law,’ I don’t think is an acceptable course.”
Following that exchange, McKenna simply said, “Yes,” in response to whether the town could implement the new traffic plan starting on Feb. 28, prompting the school parents in the audience to applaud the decision.