Wellman applies for Safe Routes grant
WELLMAN — The City of Wellman and the Washington County Public Health Department has teamed up to apply for the Safe Routes to School Grant.
The grant is from the Iowa Department of Transportation and it involves funding for better routes to school. The primary focus of the grant is to get the sidewalk continued over to the school.
“Right now I call it the sidewalk to nowhere,” City Administrator Nicholas Pacha said. “It ends at the schools property line.”
If the grant is approved the sidewalk would extend around the playground to the backside of the building. Currently students have to walk across the parking lot, which poses a safety risk.
According to the Web site <www.iowadot.gov/saferoutes> Safe Routes to School (SRTS) “is an international effort to increase safety and to promote walking and bicycling through the 5Es: engineering, education, enforcement, encouragement, and evaluation.”
In the grant application the City of Wellman also applied for infrastructure and non-infrastructure parts.
“Riverside has the digital speed signs and that is part of our grant request,” Pacha said. “Updates to our crosswalk on Highway 22 would happen as well.”
Currently the painting for the crosswalk is dim and hard to see, Pacha said. The thought of having digital speed signs came from the City of Riverside’s example. If you travel above the speed limit, the signs will flash a bright blinking white light at you to get your attention and slow the driver down.
“The digital speed signs are so people can decrease their speed,” said Washington County Public Health Nurse Lynn Fisher.
Back in April 2012, Fisher and other county and city officials did a walking feasibility study.
“We had GPS hand-held devices and we walked around town marking areas that didn’t have finished sidewalks, heavy traffic, and speeding traffic issues,” Fisher said. “The Iowa State Extension helped us with that and analyzed all the data as well.”
Wellman Elementary Principal Evan Parrot said Fisher was the one to contact him to get the school involved in the grant process.
“She has been the spearhead of the project,” Parrot said. “This is kind of a natural project for that grant.”
As part of the feasibility study staff members at Wellman Elementary took a week and surveyed the kids. Wellman Elementary has around 250 enrolled this year.
“Teachers took a daily tally,” Parrott said. “They would ask the students at the beginning of the day if they walked to school, rode their bike, or if they took their bus. Then at the end of the day they would do the same thing.”
There have been discussions about having the sidewalk extend over to the Parkside Y, but Parrot said that would be up to age appropriateness.
“Students do take a bus to the Y,” Parrot said. “But part of that is due to age and part of it is due to the sidewalk not being there. If the sidewalk is extended the students would still have to cross a street and the younger kids wouldn’t be doing that.”
Fisher said the idea of applying for the grant in Wellman came from the need and the fact that the City of Kalona was successful in receiving the grant a year earlier.
“The sheriff deputy who patrols Wellman mentioned applying for the grant to me,” Fisher said. “It’s also part of our five-year health plan in the county.”
If the grant is awarded, the changes wouldn’t happen for about a year. The city will be notified in early June of the Iowa Department of Transportation’s decision.