Council to Study Street and Sidewalk Improvements Near Fox Head Start

Community Action Inc. Executive Director John Cuneo.

A Haverhill City Council subcommittee will review safety concerns raised for youngsters and parents accessing the Fox Education Center on Elm Street, operated by Community Action Inc. (CAI).

Haverhill City Councilor William H. Ryan.

Haverhill City Councilor William H. Ryan.

During a suspension of rules requested by Councilor William H. Ryan, the council approved sending to its Traffic and Safety committee several street and sidewalk access improvements requested by CAI Executive Director John Cuneo and two other speakers including a parent and a van driver. Cuneo told councilors the center, including the Head Start program, at the former Fox Elementary School serves 150 children, mainly ages three to five, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., and they’re serving even younger children “as time goes on.” Safety concerns he outlined during a presentation include a disconnected flashing yellow signal, fading crosswalks, bus stop signage placed too high and sidewalk access blocked by overgrown vegetation.

“Many of the parents who are coming are walking with their children, in some cases, holding onto their hands for safety purposes and, in other cases with a child in a stroller, they can not easily negotiate many of the sidewalks that are there. Even further down the street toward Main Street… if you get to the point of the ballfield and look at the vegetation along the ballfield fence, it’s almost impassible,” Cuneo said.

City Councilor William J. Macek.

City Councilor William J. Macek.

Several councilors agreed with Cuneo’s suggestions, including restoring the flashing yellow light, a 20-mile-per-hour speed limit with monitors during the center’s operating hours and improved street markings and signage. Councilor William J. Macek said it could take several city departments to address the issues.

“I think of that street as a sleepy little residential street that doesn’t carry a lot of activity,” Macek said. “You come in and remind me what is going on. I think the police also could use a little reminder that they should probably observe, drive the street on a regular basis off and on. In DPW, I think we should not only ask for striping on the curbing, but… if possible this would also go into engineering to lay something out so there an actual bus striping on the roadway. We have that at some of our other schools.”

City Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O'Brien.

City Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien.

Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien, who was reminded of a previous safety issue at Saint Joseph School, Broadway, called Cuneo’s raising the Fox center issues to the council “a shame it came to this.”

“Coming down that hill, it was crazy. I think that we should give the same attention to your property as we did to Saint Joseph’s,” Daly O’Brien said. “And still, I’m not convinced that site on Broadway is that much more safer. But talk about a thoroughfare, that’s probably the only one I think that is more dangerous what you’re putting up with. I’m just sorry we haven’t addressed it before.”

CAI has operated Head Start programs at the center on Elm Street since it acquired the Former Fox school building from the city “eight or nine years ago,” according to Cuneo.