In a recent Maplewood City Council meeting, matters of public safety, particularly concerning the traffic and pedestrian conditions on Parker Avenue, dominated the discourse. The council also addressed reports from the Office of Emergency Management and the Police Department. While traffic safety was the primary focus, the meeting also touched on issues ranging from the local community fridge program to nuisance calls targeting senior homeowners.
The council meeting, presided over by Mayor Dean Dafis, began with reports from the Office of Emergency Management and the Police Department. However, it was the escalating traffic and pedestrian safety situation on Parker Avenue that commanded the most attention. Residents Whitney Ker and Jesse Pepper voiced concerns about the frequent accidents, excessive speeding, and insufficient safety measures in the area. Ker recounted a recent near-miss during a movie night at Borden Park, while Pepper, a ten-year resident of Parker Avenue, stressed the absence of calming measures like stop signs or speed humps.
Mayor Dafis acknowledged the residents’ concerns and sought details about the specific problem areas. He inquired about the crossing guard’s shift timings and the conditions on both Boren and Parker Avenue. Whitney Ker raised the issue of the school bus picking up her son on the wrong side of the street, with Mayor Dafis suggesting potential solutions such as the installation of a crosswalk placard or a flashing beacon to alert drivers.
Pedestrian safety was a topic that repeatedly surfaced during the meeting. Council Member Victor De Luca and Police Chief Sally concurred with Mayor Dafis’s proposal to discuss safety and security strategies in a closed session. De Luca emphasized the importance of transparency and consensus-building in addressing concerns and improving local programs, including those targeting food insecurity.
As the discussion progressed, the lack of adequate street lighting on Parker Avenue emerged as another major concern, with residents reporting dim or non-functioning lamps. This issue was particularly pronounced during the fall sports season, when children walked home after evening basketball games. Mayor Dafis assured residents that the council would task the Department of Public Works with investigating these concerns and repairing malfunctioning lamps and crossing signs.
The council also examined the role of aggressive driving in exacerbating the Parker Avenue situation. Members emphasized the need for stricter enforcement and increased ticketing to deter violations. In response to concerns that officers might be reluctant to issue tickets due to off-duty court appearances, the Police Chief assured the council that this was not a widespread issue and highlighted the recent increase in ticketing.
Other topics on the agenda included the potential outsourcing of crossing guard services to reduce the burden on police officers, and the nuisance of persistent calls to senior homeowners, reportedly from realtors. While the council expressed frustration with the latter issue, they acknowledged the limitations in addressing it unless fraud was involved.
The meeting concluded with the council inviting public comments and then adjourning to an executive session to discuss community policing and public safety strategies. The unresolved issues of Parker Avenue’s traffic safety and the management of crossing guard services were identified as priorities for further discussion and action.