You may have seen that the South Milwaukee City Council voted last week to enter into a contract with a firm to handle school crossing guard duties.
I agree with that decision.
In working with Twin City Security Inc., we are joining communities like Cudahy, West Allis, Wauwatosa, Waukesha and Shorewood who have decided that the best way to deliver this service is by partnering with a third-party firm to do it.
For South Milwaukee, it was a difficult choice, but the right one as we continue to look for more efficient ways to deliver our services.
There are seven school crossing guards in all, and, until the new contract, all were hired and managed by the South Milwaukee Police Department. The city funds four of them. The school pays the city back for the services of the other three. Going forward, Twin City will supply the guards, removing the burden of managing the program from the police department.
The SMPD has long managed to do more with less. The numbers don’t lie — on a per-resident basis, we have the smallest department in the area. And we must manage those resources closely, ensuring the department is delivering on its core responsibilities in every way possible. Managing the crossing guard program took away from that.
Day-to-day oversight of the program — from hiring to firing to payroll to dealing with absences and the like — has proven more and more time-consuming. The program literally has taken patrol officers of the street; at times, officers have had to man crossing guard stations to fill in for guards away from work. That is not acceptable to me.
No one is saying crossing guards are unimportant. However, when balanced with the other duties our police department performs, we feel this is the right move, especially with contracted program costs being similar to our internal costs.
I want to thank all of our guards for their service.
I know some have become local institutions, and we are honoring one of them — Helga Allen, stationed near E.W. Luther for many years — during our police awards ceremony at our May 17 council meeting.
All have also been offered a chance to apply at Twin City, and I hope they do.