GOSHEN — County officials and concerned parents hope to see school zone signs go up near Concord Junior High shortly after classes start this month.
Resident Julie Bachman told the Elkhart County Commissioners on Monday that she’s looking for the key that will finally get something in place to improve safety at C.R. 11 and C.R. 24. The intersection just southeast of the school only has a stop sign on C.R. 24, leaving drivers on C.R. 11 to blow through as quickly as they like, she said.
“I will probably be here every month till something gets done, because 12 years is too long to wait,” she told the commissioners. “People are driving toward the junior high at full speed, hitting their peak as they hit that intersection. There’ve been two accidents in the last two months.”
School starts Aug. 14, and she said she wants to see something done before the next accident happens. She expressed frustration that everywhere she’s turned, from the school board to the superintendent to the county Highway Department, has been either a dead end or a runaround.
“I feel like there’s a lot of shifting the topic around – ‘Well, we need to do this or we need to do this or somebody needs to do this’ – and I haven’t found the linchpin that says, ‘This is how it all comes together,’” Bachman said.
She and other parents raised the same concern at the July 15 Concord School Board meeting. Superintendent Tim Tahara told them that the district is working with the highway department to have school zone signs installed.
He said the school corporation is required to purchase the signs and the county will coordinate installation, according to the meeting minutes. The solar-powered signs have flashing lights and a “your speed” display to alert drivers if they’re going over the speed limit.
He told her a timeline for installation hasn’t been established.
County Transportation Manager Charlie McKenzie on Monday said that under the agreement between the school and county, the highway department would install the signs because they’ll go in the public right of way and because of all the rules that have to be followed. He didn’t think they could be put up before school starts, but Commissioner Mike Yoder expressed a hope that the signs can be installed within the next two weeks.
Elkhart County Sheriff Jeff Siegel pointed out at Monday’s meeting that the Concord Community Schools Police Department has the authority to enforce the speed limit around school property.
School district Police Chief Nic Minder said later Monday that officers do sit outside some of the school buildings with radar guns to catch speeders as often as they can.
“We try to balance our time with traffic enforcement,” he said. “We like to have a presence in the school and around it, so we do our best to balance our time.”
He said the new signs should be more eye-catching and help school district officers enforce the law.
They plan to have the flashing signs installed at all seven schools in the district by fall, according to Minder. Four signs will go up near the C.R. 11 and C.R. 24 intersection at the junior high, to face traffic coming and going in every direction.
Other possibilities discussed at the meeting Monday included turning the intersection into a four-way stop. But McKenzie said recent traffic studies have shown the site doesn’t meet the requirements.
“We worked with the school to come up with a solution that would work that does not involve installing an unwarranted four-way stop, which we try to avoid at all costs,” he said.
He added that while county engineers can’t recommend implementing a four-way stop where it’s not justified, that doesn’t tie the commissioners’ hands. Yoder agreed, and said he’s close to considering it.
“We could put a four-way stop there whether it’s warranted or not. We have the ability to do that, however, it creates more lawsuits for us,” Yoder said. “What it does is it creates a very inefficient intersection 24-7. And I’m about ready to say, ‘OK’ ... If it improves safety twice a day, while school’s in session, it might be worth it.”