NORTHFIELD — Budget slashing by the city has come to affect even the municipality’s youngest residents, upsetting their parents.
The city would save $25,000 by removing school crossing guards from four intersections, but dollar amounts are of little concern for Robyn Devine.
“In the morning, people are drinking coffee, putting on makeup, thinking about what they have to do,” said Devine, who lives on Yorkshire Avenue. “They’re not worried about my kids crossing the street.”
Devine expressed confidence in her two children — one 14, the other 11 — who attend Northfield Community to safely make the nearly 1-mile trip to school, but the drivers make her nervous.
Marissa Caruso, a mother of four, is similarly concerned.
“We’re in a walking district. We don’t have buses. I don’t know how they can’t have someone,” Caruso said Monday. “I think it makes absolutely no sense.”
Caruso lives on Shore Road and has three children ages 14, 11 and 7 who walk to school daily with the help of crossing guards.
Four school crossing guards recently received layoff notices, meaning four intersections near Northfield Community School could be left unsupervised. The police chief has said, however, that a guard stationed at the school may be relocated to cover one of those posts.
The city has said guards would be removed from the intersections of Jackson Avenue and Shore Road, Yorkshire Avenue and Shore Road, Jackson Avenue and Fuae Avenue, Merritt Drive and Wabash Avenue.
Police Chief Robert James said a plan is being considered to keep a guard stationed Yorkshire Avenue and Shore Road.
“That would be the only possible solution to make sure we have someone (there) on April 26,” the first school day after the layoffs go into effect, James said.
At Merritt Drive and Wabash Avenue, one of the eliminated crossing posts, cars hurried through the intersection Monday afternoon, frequently failing to halt entirely at a stop sign or yield to individuals on the bike path. A driver of a Honda Civic even increased his speed to avoid being delayed by a person on the bike path approaching the intersection.
“If you sit here and watch it for a while, it’s a dangerous spot,” said Mickie Nugent, a 17-year veteran crossing guard. She will be reassigned to a different location after the layoffs.
The city notified the school’s four crossing guards with the least amount of experience of their dismissal on Wednesday, but they will continue to work until April 23. Their dismissal reduces the total number of guards from 16 to 11, with a fifth position left unfilled after the recent passing of a longtime guard.
Those who have been laid off will have an opportunity to serve as substitutes and will be the first considered for hire if a position becomes available, Mayor Vincent Mazzeo has said.
The city settled on the four eliminated locations following the results of an annual weeklong survey in late February that counted the number of kids using each crossing post. Several people took issue with the timing of this year’s survey at a budgetary meeting held last week, given that fewer students tend to walk when the weather is cold.
But James said the study was held earlier this year because of the budgetary issues.
The reduction of guards contribute to the city’s larger effort to offset $341,000 needed to bring it within the state-mandated budgetary-spending cap. Other measures include $229,00 in concessions from the police department, the elimination of a fire captain position through attrition and the return of $55,000 from the Otto Bruyns Public Library of Northfield.
The police department said it will notify parents of where there will still be crossing guards near the school.
Julie Zlotnick said she was told children would be directed to use the stoplight at the intersection of Mill, Tilton and Shore roads.
“I don’t want my son to cross there,” said Zlotnick, president of the middle school parent teacher organization and a former councilwoman. “It’s more busy. That’s a big intersection.”
Her 11-year-old son often rides his bike to school from their home on Ridgewood Court.
In the context of the crossing guard layoffs, some residents are also questioning the city’s decision in early March to approve $199,375 for new field lights and poles at the Babe Ruth field at the All Sports Recreation Area near Birch Grove Park.
The issue may be raised at tonight’s City Council meeting, the first since the layoffs were announced at an April 6 budgetary meeting.
Residents such as Caruso’s husband, Paul, are already wondering where the city’s priorities lie.
“Whose kid is going to be playing football if they get hit on Shore Road?” he said.
Contact Christopher Ramirez: