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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Wendy Lausted has been a crossing guard for the Colfax school district for 20 years, and if you ask her, she can tell you about plenty of close calls at the crosswalk on state Highway 40.
So far, neither Lausted nor the students she guides across the street at the crosswalk on University Avenue have been struck by a passing car — but Lausted’s safety cones have been hit as they sit in the street to mark the crosswalk.
Sometimes Lausted’s safety cones have ended up being dragged as far east as the intersection with Highway 40 and county Highway M and as far west as state Highway 170.
To make the crosswalk safer, the Village of Colfax and the School District of Colfax have been working together to secure funding and to coordinate a project for installing solar powered beacon lights that will draw more attention to the crosswalk.
The total cost of the project is $10,298.
The Village of Colfax has been awarded a grant from the Walmart Foundation in the amount of $3,500, said Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer, at the Colfax Village Board’s November 12 meeting.
The Colfax school district will be covering $5,798 of the project, she said.
Colfax had written the grant application for the Walmart Foundation in the amount of $5,000, Niggemann noted.
Illumination that will shine lights down on the crosswalk, in addition to the beacons, would cost an extra $1,000, she said.
If the Colfax Village Board is willing to cover $500 for the illumination, the school district will cover the other $500, Niggemann said.
Colfax village personnel will be installing the crosswalk beacons, she said.
Carey Davis, village trustee, asked if the crosswalk beacons in Colfax will be similar to the crosswalk beacons in Mondovi.
Davis said he had recently driven through Mondovi, and “it’s quite a show. It’s like reds and blues in front of you.”
The system installed in Colfax will have flashing beacons on both sides of the crosswalk and will be “on” anytime they are activated, Niggemann said, adding that the state Department of Transportation has authorized a permit for installing the crosswalk beacons.
The Colfax Village Board unanimously approved a motion to pay $500 toward the illumination lights for the crosswalk.
In addition to the lights that would illuminate the crosswalk, Davis wondered if there were other options available, and if those options would make the crosswalk safer yet, could they still be considered?
“Can we keep the options open?” he asked.
Scott Gunnufson, village president, said he did not see why the options could not be kept open.
Niggemann said she would check on any other options that might be available for the crosswalk beacons.
Retrofitting later would more expensive, she noted.
William C. Yingst Jr., school district administrator, spoke about the crosswalk beacon project at the Colfax Board of Education’s November 18 meeting.
The initial goal was to have the beacons installed before the start of the school year, but the goal now is to have them installed before January 1, he said.
The materials are expected to arrive within the next couple of weeks, Yingst said.
Andy DeMoe, school board member, asked if the beacons would only be operational during the school year.
The lights will be operational at all times, Yingst said.
And what does the Colfax school district’s crossing guard think of the idea?
Lausted says she is very much looking forward to having the beacons installed.
“I can hardly wait to see what they’re going to look like,” she said.