October 27, 2023
To the South Burlington Community,
The safety of our residents is our highest priority. Over the past nine months, the Council has specifically discussed safety around School District properties on six separate occasions. There are several technical memorandums provided as part of those discussions and those can all be accessed at www.southburlingtonvt.gov/government/city_council/ by clicking on “Agendas & Minutes.” As there is a lot to read, we want to take this opportunity to aggregate this information into one place.
School Zones – TrafficWhen considering traffic related School Zones, the City Council has the obligation to follow State Statute which requires engineering studies, local policy action, and funding for infrastructure. The establishment of a School Zone at any of the Schools in our City costs approximately $40,000 for analysis, signage, and infrastructure and can take several months to complete the assessment, engineering, ordering and installation of school zone infrastructure. It will not change speed limits because the speed limit on all roads accessing Orchard, Rick Marcotte Central, and Gertrude Chamberlin Schools has been and currently remains 25 mph, which is the minimum per State Statute. Possible improvements would come in the form of clearing visual obstructions, street markings, and signage, based on technical recommendations provided by traffic engineers.
- Gertrude Chamberlin School: On October 3, 2022, after a request from the Principal and an analysis by Chittenden Country Regional Planning Commission (CCRPC), a School Zone around Gertrude Chamberlin School was established by resolution of the Council. Funding was initially included in the FY24 budget, but on April 3, 2023 the Council authorized the use of $23,000 in Fund Balance to fund the installation of the blinking speed radar signs requested. These were ordered and installed with the start of the 2023‐2024 school year.
- Orchard School: In early March 2023, City staff secured resources from CCRPC to conduct a School Zone and Safety Analysis. CCRPC quickly accommodated this request through their Technical Assistance program and completed the data collection before the school year ended in June. The technical memorandum was presented to the Council on August 21, 2023 (and can be seen linked at the website above.) This study recommended maintaining “SCHOOL” pavement markings on Baldwin Avenue, installing school pedestrian warning signs, trimming the vegetation and tree branches to the east of the school driveway approach for improved sight distance for motorists, and monitoring vehicular, bike, and pedestrian traffic at the school driveway and Baldwin Avenue intersection. This has all been implemented.
- Rick Marcotte Central School (RMCS): In March 2023, City staff secured engineering resources from CCRPC who then completed data collection before the end of the school year. The information was analyzed during the summer of 2023 and an engineering analysis was provided to the Council on August 21, 2023. A School Zone was established by resolution that same night. Additionally at this meeting, the Council established the four‐way stop at Market Street at the entrance to RMCS. That night the Council voted to allocate $30,000 to fund the signage needed to implement the School Zone on Market Street. The four way stop was installed before the first day of school with School Zone signage ordered and the foundations in place to receive them when they arrive.
- Middle and High School Campus on Dorset Street: For the past several years, the City has worked on design and engineering to improve the traffic signals along Dorset Street, repave the Street, and accumulate the funding needed to complete these projects. The Dorset Street Signal Replacement project will improve pedestrian crossing movements at the Kennedy Drive / I‐189 intersection and at the South Burlington High School entrance on Dorset Street. More specifically and as previously reported, the following actions have been undertaken by the City related to infrastructure improvements near the South Burlington Middle School and High School campus:
- Replaced traffic signals and pedestrian crossing infrastructure at the Dorset / Kennedy intersection. The new mast poles, arms, and signals went up the week of October 9th. Our contractor is working to wire everything and get the new equipment operational by early November.
- Replaced traffic signals and pedestrian crossing infrastructure on Dorset Street at the High School entrance. Similar improvements are being made over the entire length of Dorset Street from Williston Road to Kennedy Drive.
- On August 21, 2023 the Council approved $30,000 for and the Department of Public Works (DPW) has retained an engineer to:
- Evaluate the installation of a school zone on Dorset Street (this is similar to the evaluations completed on White and Market Street that preceded establishment of school zones in these locations).
- Evaluate the existing mid‐block crossings on Dorset Street (between 575 Dorset and the high school) and recommend improvements. This will include consideration of a variety of traffic calming measures.
- Evaluate street lighting on Dorset Street in the vicinity of the school.
- It is anticipated that this engineering work will be done over the winter of 2024 with any recommendations to be integrated into the construction plans when the last phase of Dorset Street (Aspen Drive to Kennedy Drive) is repaved in the summer of 2024. The cost of these related recommendations will need a future funding allocation when the prices are finalized.
Crossing GuardsThe South Burlington School District has funded crossing guards in our community for decades. These are excellent adult resources who can make our youngest neighbors feel safe. Our City Council has taken up the discussion of crossing guards twice in the last six months. In April 2023, the Council allocated $7,925 to fund a crossing guard at Rick Marcotte Central School through the remainder of the 2022‐2023 school year. The School District did not draw down these funds. On October 2, 2023, the City Council took up an additional request for funding to support crossing guards. Again, at this meeting the Council voted to allocate $10,212 to fund a crossing guard at RMCS related to the ongoing construction activities that will be occurring in the area during 2023‐2024 school year.
While the Council has actively voted to provide temporary assistance during a period of heavy construction in City Center, staff believe that crossing guards are a staff resource that belongs on the School‐side of our community’s financial books. Throughout the State, where crossing guards are used, these positions are funded with educational property tax dollars. In Burlington, they are funded with Traffic and Parking Fund dollars (a fund that we do not have in South Burlington.) There is a high level of coordination needed by the individual school administrators and crossing guards. These important roles would best be served by a reporting structure through School personnel. Members of the City’s DPW and the South Burlington Police Department (SBPD) stand ready to provide technical assistance and training to School side employees once they are hired.
School Zones – CriminalityThe State of Vermont has a sentencing enhancement for those charged with selling or dispensing drugs on school grounds, but it is not applicable to criminal possession of drugs. The SBPD has not identified any of our school campuses as being central to drug trafficking. We have seen commentary from residents about hazardous conditions (needles, razors, “homeless people,” and people “smoking crack.”) To date, the SBPD has received one report of an incident where school staff found a hypodermic needle on the playground. After talking with the reporting individual, the SBPD learned of a reported razor blade incident and heard about the wooded area east of RMCS being a location used by homeless individuals and drug users. Upon investigation we found evidence of old encampments and picked up 6 or 8 needles in the area. The School District is the owner of this property. The SBPD has implemented directed patrols of this area as resources allow. To date, the SBPD has never encountered a person in this area and we have not received other complaints.
Second Largest City in the State – Our DevelopmentSouth Burlington is uniquely positioned in Chittenden County and Vermont. We have easy access to transportation, the beauty of Vermont, and excellent jobs and services. For this reason, many of us and our neighbors are choosing to live and work here. Our City Council has actively worked for decades to balance this growth with our goals of preserving our natural resources and addressing the impacts of Climate Change. Additionally, for decades our City has envisioned a downtown for our community. We are proud of the investments the taxpayers have made in the infrastructure and are excited to see City Center being realized in the community’s vision. And, we welcome our new neighbors in developments such as O’Brien Hillside, Spear Meadows, and along Williston and Shelburne Roads.
Over the past decade the City Council and School Board have had many conversations about the South Burlington School District’s plans for the educational infrastructure to support the needs of our growing community. The City Council unanimously supported the implementation of impact fees that will help cover the costs of the Zero Energy Modulars. We eagerly await future plans from the School Board to construct new or renovate existing educational spaces for our children. We hope there is a robust School conversation about this soon.
Our NeighborsFinally, we are deeply concerned about the characterization of homeless or unhoused people in our community. We believe that the narrative of being unhoused equating to criminal behavior is inappropriate. We understand that there is an eroding sense of public safety given events locally, nationally, and internationally. Many of us are struggling and our neighbors are on edge. We are all active participants in public safety and our ability to have a connected and strong community. This requires situational awareness and the ability to analyze our perceptions of others free of biases. We encourage all to think about how we recognize the humanity of all our residents, advocate for everyone’s needs, and give in ways that are meaningful to each of us. If you or someone you know needs help, we encourage you to reach out to Vermont 211 for resources. If in a crisis, text “VT” to 741741. A trained crisis counselor will respond. And, of course, if you see active criminal activity in our community, please call the SBPD at 911.
If any of us can be of help, feel free to reach out.
Acting City Council Chair
Public Works Director