Rotary and Kiwanis clubs complete 200-bench project in Cape Coral

As school kicks off this coming week, community leaders maintain initiatives to promote and improve safety measures at school bus stops in local communities. In Lee County, groups and organizations acted when two young girls were killed in hit-and-run crashes at bus stops during the previous school year. So installation of benches at bus stops with other safety features continues to ensure safety for kids waiting for the bus.

Rotary Club of Cape Coral and Cape Coral Kiwanis Foundation completed its project to install 200 benches at school bus stops in Cape Coral ahead of the beginning of the new school year this weekend.

“It’s a great feeling,” Rotarian Nick Muhlenbruch said. “It’s not the best solution, but it is a part of the solution to the problem.”

The rotary club was given until Saturday to complete benches before the start of the school year. On Friday at 4 p.m., the City of Cape Coral handed the organization 800 reflectors to screw onto the benches and still make deadline. So the community gathered and spent hours completing the task at hand to guarantee safer bus stops to start the school year.

This was the completion of the project originally approved by the city a week after 8-year-old Layla Aiken was killed in a hit-and-run while waiting for her school bus, and it came months after 12-year-old Alana Tamplin was killed in a hit-and-run after she dropped her young sister off at her bus stop.

“That following week a bunch of us Rotarians got together and said we need to do something about this,” Muhlenbruch said. “We are community leaders, and business owners, we need to do something. We put our hearts and our heads together.

Rotarian and Kiwanis members partnered together, and the School District of Lee County picked locations for 200 benches at bus stops in the city.

MORE: 200 benches benches coming to Cape Coral school bus stops

Carmen Cutogno and her husband feel safer knowing their daughter will have a bench to sit on while she waits for her school bus at the this school year, but she still shared her concerns for the traffic going by the new benches.

“In this area, they’re just like standing in the middle of the road when people are going to work at six in the morning, five in the morning,” Cutogno said. “You’ve got cars flying up and down not really seeing the kids.”

Businesses have also donated time and money to the effort to make new safety measures a reality. A business that chose to remain anonymous spent nearly $90,000 to supply cement slabs that benches are mounted on.

School starts for students in Lee, Charlotte, Hendry, DeSoto and Glades counties Monday, and Collier County students start school Tuesday.

Cape Coral will begin its three-month evaluation period of the bench project once school starts to determine if the new safe zones are effective. If the evaluation is given a positive approval, the city will move forward to consider added options such as solar lighting.

“The children now have a safe area to wait for the bus,” Muhlenbruch said. “There are reflectors on each side of the bench and the front, so oncoming traffic can see the location of the benches.”

Reporter:Morgan Rynor
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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