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October 23, 2008 Issue

Lights, candy, queasy...
Finding safer routes to school
Wrens leaves little room to spare

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Lights, candy, queasy...

























The 52nd annual Louisville Lions Club Fair opened Tuesday, Oct. 21 and will remain open through Oct. 25. Highlights include Stephanie Watkins' Dance Explosion, the JCHS Warrior Band, Southern Dance Connection and cash drawings each night. Entertainment starts at 7 p.m. nightly. The fair opens at 6 p.m. through Friday and 3 p.m. on Saturday. Admission is $3.

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Finding safer routes to school

By Leila Borders
Staff Writer

When the elementary school was called the grammar school and the word gang meant the group of middle-schoolers on bikes that rode around the neighborhood after church, the family dog led the carpool of kids walking to school down Peachtree Street or across town to Louisville Academy.

Today, speeding cars, crumbling sidewalks and few crosswalks hinder children from walking or biking to school. A new federal program, Safe Routes to School, seeks to help Louisville return to that more idyllic—and healthier—time.

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Louisville Academy, in coordination with the city of Louisville, applied for the program this past month. Safe Routes to School is a federal program that provides funds to state DOTs which then fund individual projects seeking to provide safe routes for children to walk or bike to school.

Projects fund not only physical improvements to sidewalks and roads, but also education and encouragement exercises designed to get the community and parents and students involved in creating and using safe routes. Louisville Academy is the second school in the CSRA to apply for this funding.

“By making the roads safer, we hope to encourage kids to walk to school, which is healthier,” said Hulet Kitterman, principal of Louisville Academy.

A health screening of fourth graders was done in 2005 and the results were alarming. Twenty-two percent of the children had an abnormal blood pressure reading of greater than 122/80. Nine percent of the students was considered at risk for obesity, and 19 percent was obese—higher than the national average of 15 percent for children aged 6 to 19 as reported by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In addition, 32 percent of students was underweight, with a body mass index in the 50th or less percentile.

Thirty-three percent of the students were at risk for diabetes, and 25 percent had lipid abnormalities.

According to surveys from parents representing approximately half of Louisville Academy’s student body, 46.2 percent of students are driven to school in the morning and 30.3 percent are driven home in the afternoon in a family vehicle. Forty-nine percent take the bus in the morning and 64.3 percent in the afternoon. No students biked to school, and only three in the morning and eight in the afternoon walked.

However, 60 of the students in the survey live within one mile of the school’s campus—a distance which, according to Safe Routes to School, students should be able to walk or bike. Also, students in this area would not be eligible for bussing except that approximately half of a mile surrounding the elementary school is deemed a hazard bussing zone. This zone is considered hazardous because of busy highways, a lack of sidewalks and other conditions that prevent students from walking to school. The Safe Routes plan for Louisville Academy calls for sidewalks repairs and crosswalks for these hazard areas and also for the entire mile radius surrounding the school.

The program requires schools to provide a 5-fold plan that includes the 5 E’s: Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, Engineering, and Evaluation. The comprehensive application for Louisville Academy includes detailed plans for the implementation of all these areas. In education, the school plans to emphasize walking and biking safety among parents and students. Events like participating in National Walk and Bike to School Day and organizing a “walking school bus” in which a volunteer adult would walk a large group of students to school are expected to promote biking and walking as part of the encouragement plan. The school will partner with local law enforcement agencies to ensure that motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians are respectful of the laws in the area surrounding the school.

Engineering improvements include a possible speed table on Mimosa Drive and additional crosswalks on the busy roads surrounding the school, including Peachtree Street. The replacement and repair of damaged sidewalks and installation of new sidewalks on the streets surrounding the school also is a major component of the plan. The school will implement the evaluation part of the plan through surveys and yearly evaluations.

Implementation of the plan is expected to begin as soon as funds are made available from the state DOT.

“These projects are highly competitive,” said Don Rhodes, Louisville city administrator. Rhodes said the project would initially focus on improvements to the intersection of 9th Street and Peachtree Street as well as improvements to Mimosa Drive.

Mimosa Drive runs directly in front of the school and currently has no striping or crosswalks though it is crossed daily by students traveling from the main campus to the gymnasium. The street also is converted into a one-way street during morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up times by blocking one side of the road with three orange cones. City and school officials hope to use program funds for increased signage and crosswalks to make Mimosa Drive, and all the surrounding streets, much safer routes to school.



Wrens leaves little room to spare

By Leila Borders
Staff Writer

Three inches—slightly less than the length of a credit card—could soon be the difference between being a law abiding citizen or a law breaker.

The Wrens City Council unanimously approved the first reading of the new Section 9-1-9 to be added to Title 9, Chapter 1 of the City Code: Wearing of pants below the waist in public. Christopher Dube, city attorney, read the six-paragraph ordinance at the council meeting on Oct. 14 and, after a couple of questions from council members, Wrens moved one step closer to making sagging pants a clothing crime.

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The ordinance makes unlawful the wearing in public of “pants or shorts more than three inches below the waist (crest of the ilium) causing exposure of the person’s skin or the person’s undergarments” for any person regardless of age. The crest of the ilium is the ridge at the top of one’s pelvic bone.

Wearing pants below the three-inch limit will result in the “issuance of a citation and summons to appear before a court of proper jurisdiction” by a law enforcement officer. A violation is not, however, grounds for an arrest or a search of the violator.

Conviction of a violator will lead to fines and community service based on the number of previous violations of the law. The first offense can carry a fine of up to $50 and up to four hours of community service. Second-time offenders can expect fines up to $150 and up to eight hours of community service. A third offense warrants up to a $250 fine and up to two eight-hour days of community service.

Minors under the age of 17 in violation of the law will be “subject to the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court of Jefferson County.”

To create this ordinance, Dube looked to other cities that have similar laws. Three cities in Louisiana and three Georgia cities—Hawkinsville, Ludowici, and Warner Robbins—all have sagging pants ordinances. However, the Wrens ordinance has some changes from those of other cities.

“We tailored this ordinance to the city of Wrens,” said Dube. While most of the other cities counted any exposure of skin or undergarments as a violation, the Wrens ordinance requires at least 3 inches to show before a person’s pants are illegally worn. Also, the punishments for Wrens offenders vary slightly from other cities.

“We tried to craft a punishment that we felt was appropriate for the crime,” said Dube.

The ordinance requires a second public reading, at least 30 days after the first, before it can be signed into law. As the November city council meeting is 29 days from the October 14 meeting, the second reading of the ordinance will most likely take place at the December council meeting scheduled for December 9.

If passed, Wrens would become the fourth city in Georgia with an ordinance. However, nearby Waynesboro could be next. Their sagging pants ordinance, which has the same wording and punishments as the Wrens version, passed its first reading on October 20.

For citizens of both towns, the new year could see police officers armed with new weapons: rulers.




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