Berne awarded major grant for safety to school

    The city of Berne has been named as a recipient of more than $300,000 in transportation department grant funding to implement the national Safe Routes To School program.
    The announcement of the grant award was made near the conclusion of Monday night's regular meeting of Berne City Council.
    According to Kurt Dailey, the city's workforce manager, Berne is now eligible to receive $71,500 in non-infrastructure grant funding and up to $250,000 in additional funding from the Indiana Department of Transportation for infrastructure projects.
    City Building Inspector Shannon Smitley will oversee the implementation of the grant projects.
    It was a year ago that the council first heard a presentation on the Safe Routes program, which provides planning grants through the U.S. Department of Transportation for programs to encourage students to take part in a healthier lifestyle by walking and biking to school. Grant money may also be used for infrastructure, training and equipment for projects near school properties — from the construction of new sidewalks and crosswalks near school buildings to the installation of speed reduction devices and school zone signs..
    A committee appointed by Mayor John Minch — comprised of Council President Gregg Sprunger, South Adams School's acting superintendent Scott Litwiller, Berne Street Department Supervisor Gary Nussbaum and Daily — met earlier this year to explore the city's grant options. "The committee felt it was worthwhile" to apply for planning and infrastructure grant funding, Sprunger said at the time. No matching money is required of grant recipients, however all projects must take place within two miles of an existing school building.
    The city council in February voted to apply for program funding, but was not successful in its initial attempt. Berne officials learned on Monday that the city was named as a recipient in the subsequent round of grant funding.
    Infrastructure projects that qualify under the Safe Routes To School program include the installation of sidewalks, crosswalks, speed bumps, pavement markings, increased signage and other "traffic-calming" devices near schools.
    Non-infrastructure projects encouraged by the program include the implementation of a "walking school bus" route, whereby groups of students are led by a supervising parent along a walking route to school. Other qualifying programs include training and equipment for crossing guards, and incentive programs which encourage students to walk or bike to school as a health benefit.
    City council members were jubilant over the news that the grant funds had been awarded to Berne, responding with comments of "awesome" and "great news."