La Porte considers `Safety Town' project
By ROBERT STANTON
Two fifth-graders at Lomax Elementary School in La Porte were riding their bicycles on Underwood Road on March 10 when they were struck by a truck that was turning onto Myrtle Creek.
The accident sent the boys to a local hospital with serious injuries one suffered a broken neck, and the other had a broken arm and leg.
It's a miracle they were alive," La Porte police Officer Yvonne Stanley said. They are always going to suffer repercussions from this accident."
News of the injuries reached La Porte Police Chief Ken Adcox, who sent Stanley an e-mail.
He asked me what I thought about a Safety Town. I didn't even know what one was."
Stanley hopped on the Web to do a little searching.
She was astounded to learn about the Safety Town implemented by the Frisco Fire Department in 2006.
Frisco is 30 miles north of Dallas.
The Safety Town concept is to provide a facility to teach children about safety in a fun and interactive environment.
After talking with the fire chief, Stanley said, We knew we needed help with this project."
They enlisted the help of the city of La Porte's fire department, emergency management services, parks and recreation and public works.
Supporters also contacted the La Porte Independent School District for assistance.
A partnership was born.
A model town
Looking much like a movie set, the Safety Town is a scale replica of a small town, complete with safety signs, lights, an artificial railroad and electrical hazards.
The replica includes an indoor recreated fire station, construction site, amphitheater and two-story home.
The concept behind Safety Town, Stanley said, is to provide a venue where children go to learn how to play it safe, everywhere, every day.
It's a safe place to practice getting out of a house that's on fire, and to learn about pedestrian crosswalks, bicycle safety, water safety, wearing seat belts and how to call 911.
I want to see us stop as many preventable accidents as we can," said Stanley, who teaches the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program in La Porte schools.
These boys were my students. We think that education can prevent many accidents like this."
Community support, partners needed
But getting a Safety Town off the ground is no easy task. It will need the support from every part of the community La Porte schools, the business community, residents, and all city departments, proponents say.
Safety Town is just one more avenue our city can pursue in reducing various risks to area children," said La Porte police Detective John Krueger.
If established, the project would continue to be funded by industry support, business advertisements and other available grants."
The concept has taken off nationally, with Safety Towns in place in Oklahoma, New York and Florida.
There's even one in Berkshire County, England.
The La Porte Safety Town Advisory Committee is looking at several locations to build a Safety Town.
The estimated cost would be about $4 million.
That cost could be considerably less if land for the project is city owned or donated.
The committee is seeking corporate sponsors for the project, Stanley said.
We want to showcase the entire transportation industry, including the marine industry, railroads and chemical plants and trucking companies," she said.
In addition, we would like to bring in area landmarks such as a miniature San Jacinto Monument and Baytown Bridge, and showcase the things that make our area unique," she said.
With tight budgets, there is no way that the city could afford to use tax dollars to build this," Stanley said.
We're not going to be able to do it without (support).
That's what's critical all of us working on this together."
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