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Ashland police to stop directing traffic outside schools

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

Traffic control at the intersection of South Henry Clay Boulevard and East Liberty Lane in Ashland has been put to a stop after an officer was struck by a car while directing traffic on Tuesday.

An officer will be stationed at the intersection that is near the Southern Boone School District to assist children walking to school and crossing the intersection but officers will no longer be directing traffic, the Ashland Police Department said in a news release.

Officer Andrew Worrall says, "We are no longer putting an officer in the middle of the street or the middle of the intersection to direct vehicles, an officer will still be present to help pedestrians cross the street if they need it."

"We're thankful the police officer involved in yesterday's accident was not seriously injured," Southern Boone Superintendent Chris Felmlee said in a statement. "The school district will continue to have staff in front of our schools to help with students being dropped off and traffic flow in our parking lots."

Police did not say how badly the officer hit Tuesday was injured. The officer was hit from behind and was treated at an urgent care clinic. and then released

Within the past two years, there have been three car accidents in the intersection, two resulting in property damage and one in personal injury, according to Missouri's online crash reporting database.

Worrall says the city and the police department have been working to make the intersection safer.

Worrall says, "We're working on fixing that we've done lots of traffic studies one was actually complete recently so the public works is reviewing that and discussing with city officials the best way to move forward."

This is also the Ashland Police Department's second officer injured in the past two months.

An officer suffered an Achilles tendon tear after responding to a domestic call. The officer underwent surgery and returned to light duty Monday. He will not return to patrol duty for an estimated eight to 12 months.

The two injured officers represent 40% of the full-time patrol officer staff.

The city of Ashland has a population of more than 4,000 people and has grown 11% since the last census and with more people that means more traffic.

"Traffic is certainly a concern in Ashland, we're one of the fastest-growing communities in Missouri so we are always trying to pay attention to improve and enhance what we are doing," Worrall said.

The Ashland Police Department is short officers right now. The city's budget allows the department to have six patrol officers and right now only five of the six positions are filled. The police department is working to fill the position right now and is interviewing candidates.

"So that brings us down to four active police officers on duty right now for full-time patrol," Worrall says.

Police Chief Gabe Edwards has worked with the Southern Boone School District after numerous Ashland officers have experienced near-misses at the intersection while directing traffic, according to the police department news release.

The city says it is continuing to evaluate options for improving the intersection to better accommodate the flow of traffic and ensure pedestrian safety.

"The Southern Boone School District is encouraging parents dropping off students at the primary elementary schools to allow a little extra time and patience while driving through the intersection," Felmlee said. "The school district is continuing to work with the City of Ashland and the Ashland Police Department to determine a long-term solution to the issues with the congested intersection."

The Ashland Police Department says the driver of the car that struck the officer stopped and cooperated with the investigation. The driver was not cited because the intersection is not designed to accommodate a person standing in the middle of it and the driver had no intention of hitting the officer.

Erika McGuire

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