Amanda Simmons, email@example.com
Haughton Police Chief Todd Gibson says there’s a serious traffic issue in his town.
With two schools open and a third coming in August, morning commutes have become a headache for the town.
Last month, Gibson added an officer at the intersection of LA Highway 3227 and North Hazel to direct traffic after receiving complaints about the congestion near the middle school.
“People were calling saying it was hard to get through town because of the two schools [Haughton Middle and Haughton High] being in close proximity,” Gibson said. “You have parents taking their kids to school and people commuting from around Doyline and the Lake Bistineau area trying to get to the interstate.”
Gibson asked the Haughton Town Council for permission to pay an off duty officer to stand at the busy intersection for the remainder of the school year, which they approved. It’s not the first time the town has had to address morning traffic issues.
“Before [former Police Chief Rodney] Farrington retired, when the middle school was on South Elm Street, the school board paid for a Haughton Police officer to stand in front of the school and direct traffic,” Gibson said. “The school board also paid for an officer to stand at South Elm and West Jackson to direct traffic. This year, the board said they weren’t going to pay for an officer.”
Instead, the officer is funded by the Haughton Police Department’s budget. Adding one officer and possibly another next school year would be a heavy hit to their budget, Gibson said.
According to the Bossier Parish Schools website, for the 2018-2019 school year, there are 173 days that students will attend school. Gibson pays one off duty officer $25 per day to direct traffic at LA Hwy 3227 and North Hazel from 7 a.m. to 7:45 a.m. That equals $4,325 for one officer directing traffic each school day.
Gibson said if he has to add an officer at South Elm and West Jackson to direct traffic once the new Haughton Elementary School opens in August, the cost will double to $8,650.
“That’s a huge cost for a small agency,” he said. “I’m hoping this fall that the Bossier Parish School Board will help me with the cost since we have so many schools here.”
Gibson said he has reached out to the school system, adding they’ve been cooperative and supportive.
“I think once they see it in person, they will realize what we’re dealing with here,” he said.
The off duty officer has been an effective solution to the traffic problem. Gibson is hoping for a longterm solution, though.
“We’re going to have to do something,” he said. “DOTD did a traffic count a while back, but said the count was not sufficient enough to support the cost of a traffic light at the LA 3227 and North Hazel intersection. I feel like we’re still going to need an officer there and possibly need another at South Elm and West Jackson again. I guess that’s a bridge we’ll cross in August.”