–By Joseph Domelowicz
For the Transcript
Following a carbon monoxide scare at the Gorman Fort Banks School two weeks ago and a winter season filled with traffic snarls and parking issues along Kennedy Drive, parents of students at the Gorman Fort Banks School descended last week on the Town Council meeting asking for assurances that their children could be kept safe.
The Council’s measured response to that appeal was to restrict Public Works Department vehicles from using Kennedy Drive on school days between the hours of 7:45 and 8:15 a.m. and again between 1:50 and 2:15 p.m., essentially creating a half-hour window during school pick-up and drop-off times, during which big trucks cannot access the road, and compete with parents and civilian vehicles, except in emergencies.
With that decision, it has been left to Public Works Director Dave Hickey and his crews to manage the department’s workload, while also complying with the Council’s directive.
The new restrictions are set to go into effect next Monday, February 28, when schools re-open following the winter school vacation week.
“The short answer is that yes, we are ready to comply with the Council’s request and in fact, we already began following those guidelines during the last couple of days last week, so that we could get a read on what the changes would mean to the way we work,” said Hickey.
Hickey noted that while the changes are intended as a safeguard for children, something he and the department fully support, they will also have an impact on the department’s operations.
“We’re going to have to work smarter and be sharper about how we head out and prepare for our days,” he said. “Let’s face it, Winthrop is a small town and if while at a job site, there was any kind of issue or malfunction, if we needed more equipment or something broke and we had to get a new tool or supply, it’s easy to just go back to the barn and get what we need, because it doesn’t delay the work more than 10 minutes. But now, if something happens during the road restriction times, the delay could mean 30 or 40 minutes, instead of just 10 minutes, unless we think little more about what we’re doing before ewe head out the door.”
Hickey said that he and operations manager Steve Calla have met with their work crews and gone over the new restrictions and have also contacted town vendors and suppliers that use big trucks, and asked them to begin including the Kennedy Road restrictions on all orders for the town, to ensure that deliveries to the garage are not scheduled for those hours either.
To help remind his crews and vendors of the new rules, Hickey also said that signs have been installed at the garage’s gates and entrances to remind all drivers visiting the site of the restrictions.
“On the face of it, it really isn’t a major issue, but when you consider that our workday is eight hours and you take out one hour for lunch and scheduled breaks, then you realize that the road will be closed to our vehicles for one-seventh of our work day during the school calendar year,” said Hickey.
He also said that though the department is happy to cooperate with the new rules, he is optimistic that a better long-term solution can be found in the future for the traffic and parking problems associated with Kennedy Drive.
“I am hopeful that this is an interim solution, because that road being a dead end makes things more difficult,” said Hickey. “Without a doubt, we need a better long-term solution for that road, be it more parking, a traffic queue or a secondary access road to tie into Kennedy Drive, something needs to be done down the road.”