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Guardrail to be built beside playground

Parents of Inverness Primary School pupils got some reassuring news Tuesday: The city has agreed to build a guardrail between the school playground and busy Highland Boulevard.

School Board officials and parents have asked about the barrier for months, arguing that traffic on the road, which recently became four lanes, presents a safety problem.

Inverness city staff _ namely the police chief, director of public works and engineering staff _ recommended against such a project, which they estimated would cost at least $5,000.

But at the City Council meeting Tuesday night, with several school parents in attendance, the council voted 4-1 to build the barrier, anyway.

The crowd broke into applause.

"We were delighted, because it was a real need," said Roberta Long, principal at Inverness Primary, during an interview Wednesday. Ms. Long attended the council meeting Tuesday.

In reviewing the issue, the city's engineering company pointed out that the intersection near the playground, Line Avenue and Highland, is a four-way stop. Presumably, cars would be traveling slowly as they drove past the playground.

Also, the road alignment provides a much flatter slope than before the construction, the company said. What's more, the curb, gutter, sidewalk and chain-link fence between the road and playground act as barriers against out-of-control cars.

Police Chief Massey Cook made similar arguments, adding that the posted speed zone is 20 mph when students are arriving at school or leaving after classes and 30 mph the rest of the day.

Daniel Sawyer, director of public works, strongly recommended against the guardrail. He said the 500-foot barrier could cost $6,000 to $7,680.

In a letter to a school official, City Manager Bruce Banning said there was not enough evidence to support the city paying for a barrier. But the School Board certainly could put up the money, he said.

Ms. Long, the school principal, pointed out that dozens of pre-kindergarden to fifth-graders are on the playground between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. (In addition to school, the county also runs a day-care operation at Inverness Primary.)

Officials have seen tire marks on the curb, evidence that cars have come too close to running off the road, she said.

Council member Leonard Giordano formally suggested that the city build the barrier; he was joined by Pete Kelly, Bernard Adkins and President Walter Cannon.

Council member Vincent Scheer cast the sole opposing vote.