Inter-Lakes School Board again wrestiling with traffic safety issues around Meredith campus

MEREDITH — The Inter-Lakes School Board awarded a contract to reconstruct the Inter-Lakes Elementary School playground at a meeting on Tuesday night.
Board members also reconsidered recurring topics of traffic safety for vehicles as they enter and leave the Meredith campus, and the possibility of recording board meetings for access through the Internet.
"The chairman and I have spoken a few times about videotaping our meetings," superintendent Mary Ellen Ormond told the board. "I would like to move forward with this and get some basic pricing."
Ormond said she'd like to gather pricing information for the microphones and camera needed to record meetings, which could be posted for viewing on the district website. A few years ago, with a different superintendent and a different school board, a similar proposal was rejected as an inexpedient use of taxpayer dollars.
For years Meredith Selectboard meetings have been broadcast live, and recorded for later broadcast, on Lakes Region Public Access television.
"This is just a discussion," Ormond said. "I would look at what it might take  to do... at least start off low-tech, see how many hits it gets. If people are watching it, we might invest some more."
Earlier in the meeting, Ormond told the board that she and other district representatives recently met with the chiefs of fire and police departments in the school district's three towns to discuss safety issues, including the topic of vehicular traffic exiting the Meredith campus and turning onto Route 25, especially those turning left to head toward Center Harbor. Vehicles stopped in the left-turn lane have poor visibility if there's a driver in the right-turn lane, an issue which has long been of concern at the school.
Board member Sally Whalen, one of the Center Harbor representatives, recently asked Ormond to see what could be done to mitigate the hazard.
Although there have been a few accidents at that location, Ormond said, they have been minor and haven't resulted in serious injury. Hiring a police officer to work the intersection would cost about $28,000 per year, she said, and officers wouldn't stop traffic during winter months due to the steep hill just to the south of the school campus. "The biggest fear is that someone would hit their brakes and cause more problems than it would solve," she said.
Board member Howard Cunningham, who had been on the board when it previously looked at the problem, said, "The most effective solution would be the purchase of property, construction of road for ingress/egress out of Prescott Park (to Rte. 3 North)." That plan would prove expensive, he said. Other board members noted that it would also direct far more traffic through and around Prescott Park's athletic fields, which might cause additional safety concerns.
Whalen and board member Carol Baggaley suggested redirecting left-turning traffic to the campus's northern exit, which features only one outgoing lane. "The visibility is so much better," said Whalen. However, the better sight lines come with a requirement of increased patience as the northern exit is also the one used by buses. Drivers also must drive past the high school's main entrance, which often sees a lot of back-and-forth foot traffic as students walk to athletic fields.
"It's a conundrum to try and parse through," said Ormond., who agreed to attempt a "pilot" program in which left-turning traffic would be diverted to the northern exit, and a crossing guard would be stationed at the high school's entrance for pedestrian safety. Ormond said she would give the board a report on the effectiveness of the pilot. "At least then we can make some hard decisions."
Lastly, the board unanimously agreed with the playground committee's recommendation to hire M.E. O'Brien & Sons, a Medfield, Mass. company, to construct a new playground at Inter-Lakes Elementary. The winning bid of $126,640 was less than a competing bid from Utiliplay Parks & Playgrounds, Inc., and more than that of Pettinelli & Associates.
Assistant superintendent Trish Temperino, representing the playground committee, said the M.E. O'Brien & Sons bid was favored because its proposed design was deemed superior to the others.