The Dumas City Commissioners voted Tuesday in their regular meeting to stop having the Dumas Police Department (DPD) man two little-used crosswalks on Dumas Avenue. DPD Chief Ray Resendez made the request to the commissioners and spoke during the Tuesday meeting.
According to Resendez, the department is short two crossing guards and has had to use animal control officers to man the two Dumas Avenue crosswalks during the morning and afternoon hours when children are arriving at and leaving schools in the vicinity. Though the department has been advertising the openings for some time, Resendez said there had been "little to no response."
Resendez told the commissioners that the animal control officers must respond to many calls every day dealing with animals throughout the city, and, at the same time, they had to operate and man the city's animal shelter. He said they did not have time to spend a part of every morning and afternoon working the crosswalks.
The DPD currently mans four crosswalks located in the vicinity of Dumas Independent School District (DISD) schools. The two Dumas Avenue crosswalks are at the intersections of 14th Street in the south and Northwest 3rd Street in the north. The southern crosswalk serves children attending Sunset Elementary School and the northern crosswalk serves children attending Green Acres.
Resendez told the commissioners Tuesday that the DPD had kept records of the number of children using all four crosswalks for two weeks. None used the northern crosswalk either morning or afternoon during that time. In the south, one child, accompanied by an adult, used the crossing every day in the morning. In the afternoon, two used the crosswalk on four days, three on three days, and one afternoon saw four children using it. One child each afternoon was accompanied by an adult. During the discussion Tuesday, Dumas Mayor Bob Brinkmann said that he often traveled on Dumas Avenue and had never seen anyone use the northern crosswalk, but he had seen children using the southern crosswalk.
The two other crosswalks manned by city personnel are at the intersections of 7th Street and South Maddox Avenue and at 1st Street and Texas Avenue. The former crosswalk serves children going to and from Morningside Elementary School while the latter serves Dumas Intermediate School students who live north of 1st Street. Both crosswalks are used by many students, up to 30 on two afternoons at the 1st Street location and as many as 14 on two afternoons at 7th Street. At each location, only one student on one day was accompanied by an adult. Resendez' proposal included working with DISD officials to transfer responsibility to the DISD for these two locations beginning next year.
Dumas Avenue, Maddox, and 1st Street all have a high volume of vehicle traffic, especially during morning and afternoon rush hours. As reported in the News-Press in September of 2020, the DISD maintains a number of trained and certified crossing guards to man other crosswalks throughout the district. They are DISD employees, and they work the crosswalks as an additional duty. According to then DISD Police Department Chief Larry Payne, they had all passed a background check, received training, and been awarded a certification to work the crosswalks as required by the State of Texas and the federal government. An effort to reach DISD Police Department Chief Keith Quirk about the future of the crosswalks currently manned by the city was unsuccessful before press time.
Resendez told the commissioners that he believes that neither city ordinance nor state law requires the police department to provide the crosswalk service. The city was providing it at least in the 1970s. Payne said he remembered pulling crosswalk duty as a DPD officer at the north Dumas Avenue location when he first began working in Dumas in the 1970s. He said he had plenty of memories of disrespectful drivers and drivers who refused to obey traffic laws requiring them to stop for children in the crosswalk, even though the children were accompanied by a uniformed DPD officer.
Fewer children walk to school today, and construction has begun in the north on the Dumas Avenue resurfacing project, which could make crossing the street on foot problematic at least at times. In the long run, the issue of the Dumas Avenue crosswalks may be solved by the replacement of both Sunset Elementary and Green Acres by two new consolidated elementary schools located on North and South Maddox Avenue. All Dumas schools will be located on the east side of town, beyond walking distance for all but the most hardy children living west of Dumas Avenue. During discussions at a commission meeting several months ago about approving a zoning change to allow the construction of an apartment complex west of Dumas Avenue, several commissioners said that DISD Superintendent Monty Hysinger had said that students living west of Dumas Avenue could be bused to school. Students crossing Dumas Avenue to go to and from school was one of the issues opponents of the apartment complex had raised. The commissioners eventually voted to approve the zoning change.