GRANGEVILLE — A citizen concern to improve crosswalk safety received encouragement from the Grangeville City Council as a private project to pursue further.

Angela Economen spoke to the council at its July 16 meeting on her concern with crosswalk safety for children and older people, specifically referring to the Main and Florence streets intersection near Les Schwab Tire Center.

“I’ve observed people trying to cross at the crosswalks,” she said, “and so many people don’t stop.” Referencing handheld crosswalk flags available at locations in Lewiston and McCall, she questioned whether it would improve safety by helping motorists “see a little better the people who are there.”

The issue isn’t new as Mayor Wes Lester noted in March 2016, Girl Scout Troop 3702 raised this same concern for Main Street crosswalk flags. Councilor Amy Farris agreed with Economen on that particular location where, in some instances, trucks take the turn too wide for safety.

“And at times it is so busy, you can’t see people in that crosswalk,” she said.

According to Lester, Salt Lake City initiated such a program that grew to involve businesses sponsoring flags and ensure buckets remained stocked.

“I do think talking to the businesses is a really good way to start, to see if they’ll adopt intersections closest to them,” said police chief Morgan Drew. “Schwab talked with us about putting cones up there, but I think flags would be better. I think there may be a lot of buy-in for that.”

Public works director Bob Mager advised Economen first approach the Idaho Transportation Department as they have oversight over State Highway 13 that passes along and through Main Street.

“I don’t foresee them saying no, but that is crossing over their road,” Mager said. “Once you’ve done that, you can move forward.” Lester also advised her to contact the City of McCall, which has a similar situation with State Highway 55.

Drew said the flags would be helpful at the city’s busier intersections and also show pedestrians’ intent to cross, instead of motorists having to guess.

“And it may encourage people to use the crosswalks,” he continued, “because one of these days someone is going to get hit out there in the middle of Main Street jaywalking and they’re in for rude awakening; that’s their fault.”

The council approved a police department expenditure for new Axon body cameras, related equipment and services. The purchase would be a total $29,058 across a five-year period, which includes extended warranties, new cameras and docking stations at 2.5 and 5 years, and automatic upload to cloud-based storage.

Chief Drew explained their existing camera system, Vievu, has been bought out by Taser and he will no longer be able to get replacements. This existing system has had continued problems, largely with connection points and switches, and he has had to have 10 cameras around to ensure the department has enough on-hand working for officers. As GPD has not been able to fill one of its officer positions, he can use the salary savings to make the first payment in the five-year plan.

“We could wait, but we may end up without video coverage,” Drew said, “and we’ve seen how valuable that stuff is, pretty much since everyone has been on council. It’s saved us a few times, knowing what happened out there.” He said using the smartphone and voice recorder for the same purpose, “there is not enough time to turn it on when it really matters.”

How times have changed and on how essential body cameras are was explained by city attorney Adam Green.

“We can’t prosecute without videos anymore. That’s the nature of the beast,” he said. “Five years ago, if we had a video — sometimes we did, sometimes we didn’t — a defense attorney would accept that. That’s not the way it is anymore. If a video doesn’t work or if it fails, that’s an automatic challenge. Jurors expect to so see video encounters, and we don’t win cases if we don’t have video. It’s as simple as that. In my opinion, if you want to prosecute criminal cases, there is nothing more important than the video.”

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