Montgomery County

Montgomery County Legislature votes ‘no’ on resolution to support school speed zone

The new crosswalk on Miami Avenue used by pedestrians to reach Amsterdam High School in Amsterdam is seen on Dec. 2, 2021.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

The new crosswalk on Miami Avenue used by pedestrians to reach Amsterdam High School in Amsterdam is seen on Dec. 2, 2021.

FONDA — The Montgomery County Legislature voted down a resolution to support the creation of a speed zone around Amsterdam High School this week after legislators disagreed about whether the issue is their responsibility.

District 4 Legislator Robert Headwell, Jr. on Tuesday took issue with the resolution seeking the county’s support for the creation of a school zone with reduced speed limits around the high school in the town of Amsterdam citing a lack of communication from municipal leaders.

“If they wanted us to do this they should have come to us with a request,” Headwell said. “If people want some of this done, then come here. We’re nice people, we get along with people.”

District 9 Legislator Robert Purtell clarified that the speed zone was requested as part of a combined effort by the Greater Amsterdam School District and county officials to address safety concerns expressed by a district family this fall for students walking to school and crossing the heavily trafficked Miami Avenue, a county road.

Immediate action was taken to improve conditions by repainting the crosswalk at the Miami Avenue entrance to the high school grounds and installing new reflective signs with flags alerting motorists traveling in either direction of the approaching pedestrian crossing.

Now officials are seeking to reduce the speed limit to 15 miles per hour during the school day on portions of Miami Avenue, Saratoga Avenue, Midline Road and Saratoga Road. The Amsterdam Town Board last month approved a resolution to pursue the speed reduction at the request of Montgomery County Sheriff Jeffery Smith.

Additional paperwork and approvals will be submitted by the sheriff and Montgomery County Highway Department to the state Department of Transportation for a final decision on implementing the school speed zone. It could take several months for the entire process to be completed.

Purtell indicated the resolution before the Legislature was intended to show county support for the state to enact the speed reduction.

“This is more of a letter of support to support the school district, sheriff’s department, DPW department and the children that walk to school there,” Purtell said. “It’s for the safety of the children. It’s going to be supportive of the application to the DOT and there is no downside risk to it.”

District 3 Legislator Roy Dimond pointed to the resolution as unnecessary, saying the Legislature should not be involved when only the official action of the Amsterdam Town Board and county Highway Department are required.

“We’re getting involved in a lot of things that we don’t need to be involved in,” Dimond said. “As far as DPW putting a crosswalk in, that is our responsibility. I don’t see this as our responsibility. I say let it be.”

The issue should instead be brought to the attention of the county’s state representatives to push for DOT approval, Dimond added.

Purtell noted he had already discussed the concern within his district with state leaders while arguing the county’s official support for the change could only help.

“It strengthens the application,” Purtell said. “I hesitate to see any downside.”

The resolution was ultimately defeated by a 4-5 vote. Headwell, Dimond and Chairman and District 7 Legislator Michael Pepe voted against the measure. The absences of District 6 Legislator John Duchessi and District 8 Legislator Joseph Isabel were automatically recorded as “no” votes.

Despite the lack of support for the school speed zone, Purtell is hopeful legislators will back plans for an eventual grant application seeking state funding to install sidewalks on Miami Avenue.

“Miami Avenue is a county road and the county is responsible for the upkeep and safety on that road. I can’t understand why anybody wouldn’t support a resolution looking for funding or grants for sidewalks on Miami Avenue,” Purtell said.

Purtell approached the GASD Board of Education last month to begin discussing collaboration on a joint grant application between the county and school district.

The proposal has reportedly received positive feedback from Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort and legislators Purtell has already spoken with. Planning is in the preliminary stages and there is no timeline of when a funding application could be submitted.

“I think it would be very shortsighted of any legislator that wouldn’t support the safety of students walking back and forth to school,” Purtell said. “There is a sense of urgency.”

Reach Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.

Categories: Fulton Montgomery Schoharie

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