Robert Wilkins

Robert Wilkins

In March, New Castle resident Robert Wilkins will turn 80.

He would be one of only two school crossing guards employed by the New Castle Police Department’s traffic division.

Wilkins brought up concerns regarding his job as a crossing guard during Tuesday’s city council meeting. He said he first spoke to council about his concerns three years ago, stating that the existing crossing guards are all senior citizens like himself, and that there could be a shortage in the future if conditions and pay don’t change.

Now, three years later, Wilkins said traffic department Cpl. Chris Fabian is having a hard time hiring guards because of the low pay and working conditions.

“Nobody is willing to take these jobs,” Wilkins said.

Wilkins said crossing guards only make $9.30 an hour, which is not enough for Fabian to hire people. He said the city of Pittsburgh pays $15 an hour.

He also said he puts his life on the line every school day dealing with drivers.

“As a crossing guard, I do not stand on a corner,” Wilkins said. “I stand in the street.”

Wilkins said he works in the corner of Euclid Avenue near George Washington Intermediate School.

He said at least twice a day drivers swear at him, and at least a couple times a week drivers yell racial slurs.

Wilkins said drivers have threatened physical violence. In the 15 years he has been a crossing guard, he has been involved in five physical confrontations, including once where he was hit and flown in the air by a vehicle. He also referenced an incident between him and then-Superintendent John Sarandrea.

Other crossing guards over the years expressed the same sentiment, Wilkins said, noting they’ve decided not to return.

He called Highland Avenue a “racetrack” and dangerous.

“I’m asking you all to respect the position,” Wilkins said. “You got to hire the right people.”

Wilkins said he originally promised Fabian he would stay on as a crossing guard until the end of this school year, but said he is not sure if that will be the case. Without crossing guards, he said the city police will have to pull cars and officers out of patrol to help with the traffic.

“I think you’re setting yourself up for a dangerous situation,” Wilkins said.

Mayor Chris Frye said as city council and administration are in budget season now, they are looking to try and find ways to increase the wages for the lowest paid city workers. He noted Act 47 limits how the amount of wage increases.

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