Jan Jordan stands at the end of her driveway in Poland, where she operates a home day care. Jordan has been flooded with offers of help to pay for a $13,000 sign to make her Regional School Unit bus stop safer. Sun Journal file photo

POLAND — Jan Jordan will get a flashing bus stop sign for her home day care.

Regional School Unit 16 will front the $13,000 to buy the sign and install it.

But who will ultimately pay? That will take a little more time.

“It’ll be what it’ll be, but with all the support that seems to be coming forward, we may not have a problem paying for it,” Jordan said.

Days after a Sun Journal story about the dangerous Route 11 bus stop, a sign needed for safety and a disagreement over who should pay for it, Jordan has been flooded with offers of assistance.

On Friday, she said, a caller from the office of U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, contacted Jordan to say the congressman’s staff would work with the Maine Department of Education and other state departments to see what help they could give.

Other day care owners and community members have offered donations or are leading bottle drives to help Jordan in case she remains responsible for the $13,000 bill.

Roger Mackbach of Augusta has started an online fundraiser that has so far raised $40. His own toddler son was hit by a car a couple of years ago while the boy’s mother wheeled him across a crosswalk in his stroller. The boy was OK, but the road accident left an impression on Mackbach.

“I feel very passionate about making sure this sign goes up,” he said.

The sign is expected to be installed next month, just before the beginning of the new school year.

“They’re shooting for the third week in August, which will be close, but hopefully we’ll make it,” Jordan said.

At issue is a 30-year-old bus stop at 937 Bakerstown Road, or Route 11, in Poland, in front of Jordan’s Little Hands Childcare. Jordan said she has complained for years that the area is dangerous, with drivers who careen around the bend and fail to see the stopped school bus until it is almost too late.

After a near miss there last November, RSU 16’s new administrators took her complaints seriously. They and the Maine Department of Transportation agreed the stop was too dangerous, and the school system shut down the bus stop in January. The move affected nine of the district’s elementary school pupils, all from Jordan’s day care. They were able to be picked up and dropped off by a special minibus that could pull into Jordan’s driveway, but they had to wait for a driver to become available, which meant getting to school late every day.

Jordan and school system officials agreed a sign was the better, more-permanent solution. The solar-powered “school bus stopped ahead” sign went out to bid. It will cost $13,000 installed.

Jordan said last week she had no idea she would have to pay for it. Superintendent Kenneth Healey disputed that, saying Jordan knew the sign’s cost would be her responsibility.

Healey said last week he sympathizes with Jordan, but he does not want to take $13,000 out of the school system budget and ask taxpayers to foot the bill.

“Maybe if it was my personal money, I would easily say, ‘Yeah, this is well worth it,'” Healey told the Sun Journal last week. “But it’s not my personal money. This is money that’s been given to me to operate the educational program, and not to ensure a child care or a for-profit business stays open.”

He was also worried about setting a precedent, concerned others would demand similar signs paid for by RSU 16.

Healey offered to set up a payment plan if Jordan would agree to pay $1,000 a year for 13 years. Or they could forgo the sign if the neighboring property cleared vegetation to create a better, longer line of sight.

Jordan’s father-in-law owns that land and she said he had agreed to the changes if they were feasible. But Jordan said Monday that property changes would take too much time and require more engineering and construction than anticipated.

That left the sign as the only remedy that could be ready before school starts.

RSU 16 has agreed to put up the money and have the sign installed next month. It still wants to be reimbursed.

“As of right now, (payment) is still on my shoulders,” Jordan said. “It’s more frustrating than anything, but it has to be done. These children need a place to go.”

She may get help, though. The RSU 16 board of directors is expected to take up the issue next month.

Golden’s office has asked state agencies to look into the situation. And there are the people — “A ton of people,” Jordan said. “A ton” — who have offered to donate in case Jordan has to pay the $13,000 on her own.

“It’s been very heartwarming and humbling that so many people actually cared about it,” she said.


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