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March 04. 2014 9:52PM

Nashua parents: Clean up the sidewalks for students' safety

NASHUA — Parents are pleading for help as large snow banks, unplowed sidewalks and narrow streets are creating safety concerns around Mt. Pleasant Elementary School.

Members of the school's Parent Teacher Organization recently approached city officials requesting that more be done to create a clear path around the school for students walking in the area.

"Our safety is compromised having to navigate treacherous roads … we are just trying to find a way to make it more safe," said Danielle St. Hilaire, who has a second-grade child attending the local elementary school.

St. Hilaire joined a group of other parents to voice their concerns to the Board of Public Works last week. Some of the major issues causing problems near the school on Manchester Street include unplowed sidewalks forcing children to walk in the roadway, and parents having to park two blocks away from the school and walk their children over numerous snowbanks.
Furthermore, St. Hilaire said the snowbanks are causing children to exit vehicles on the driver's side rather than the passenger's side of vehicles, meaning they must enter traffic rather than stepping onto a sidewalk.

"You can't utilize the sidewalk to walk to school," she said.

Lisa Fauteux, the city's director of Public Works, said she feels their pain.

"Mount Pleasant has been a priority for us, and we get out there as soon as we can," said Fauteux. During a recent snowstorm, Fauteux said she personally begged city plow drivers to begin clearing sidewalks around the school even though they just spent hours plowing the streets.

Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said the city has 214 miles of sidewalks in the city, saying public works crews try to clear about 50 miles of sidewalks after storms. However, under city ordinance, the city has 72 hours after a major snowstorm to clear the sidewalks, she said.

She said officials are looking into ways to mitigate some of the problems around Mount Pleasant Elementary School. Superintendent Mark Conrad is looking into the possibility of having a school janitor use a snowblower to clear some of the sidewalks along adjacent roadways such as Abbott Street. The possibility of adding flashing crossing lights has also been proposed, said Lozeau.

Although a city ordinance exists that requires homeowners to shovel their own sidewalks, the mayor said the regulation cannot be mandated because of a separate court case in New Hampshire."We've got this problem throughout the city," she said of unshoveled sidewalks.Lozeau is hoping to soon launch a community initiative that will distribute shovels and encourage citizens to help clear sidewalks that are vital in the city — especially those near schools.

Even without the snow, Lozeau said Abbott Street is not perfect because of its narrow design.Tracy Pappas, commissioner for the Board of Public Works, suggested that the city hire private contractors to help remove snow from sidewalks."I think that it is really time for us to do something about this," said Pappas.

Lozeau explained that city officials have been considering creating a permanent sidewalk crew to handle sidewalk maintenance year round, but employees are still trying to determine whether that is feasible.

In the meantime, Fauteux stressed that once primary streets are plowed, sidewalks such as those on Lock Street near the school are being cleared, and the snow is being removed from the congested area.St. Hilaire requested that sidewalks on all of the nearby streets be plowed, including Manchester, Merrimack, French and Abbott streets.

khoughton@newstote.com


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