ELKHART — On Friday morning, Troy Thomas pressed the button repeatedly to get the traffic signal at Lusher and Burr Oak avenues to turn red so he could help students and parents cross the street.
Sporting a yellow vest labeled “Crossing Guard,” Thomas raises a stop sign above his head to make sure motorists see that youngsters are heading to Monger Elementary School.
“Last week, a little kid fell right in the street,” he said. “Scared me to death.”
Thomas’ job, which results in a check for $346 every two weeks, will officially end on Dec. 31 — unless city and school officials find another way. He is one of 22 crossing guards who will be let go.
The battle over who pays for crossing guards in Elkhart has been ongoing, but two weeks ago the City Council decided to cut the program’s funding entirely for 2018, via a 6-3 vote.
Six Republicans voted in favor of the cut, while Republican Mary Olson joined the council’s two Democrats who opposed eliminating the $222,000 from the $72 million city budget for 2018.
Elkhart Police Chief Ed Windbigler asked for the funding. The vote was preceded by hours of testimony from residents about that and other issues.
“These have been city employees for the last five decades or so,” said Windbigler. “I don’t want to see them just fire 22 employees.”
Windbigler has said the City Council is playing apolitical game with kids.