THAYER --"Big trucks don't just hit cars and people, they kill people." These are the words of Thayer resident Bill Manes. He has started a grassroots campaign to keep children, especially the elementary students at Thayer School, from harm.
Although Manes did not support the construction of the new elementary school on Highway 142 East, he said what is done is done. "The school is there now and we must, as a community, move on to the next step which is protecting our children of the community," he said.
What is Manes' major concern? Keeping the children who will be crossing Highway 63 going to the new school safe is his mission.
"I was at the intersection of Highway 63 and Highway 142 East in Thayer recently and saw a child there pushing the button to cross the highway. At the same time a big truck ran the red light. That's when all the bells and whistles went off. I don't want to go by that intersection and see some child standing there pushing that button to cross the highway and see an 18-wheeler run the red light at the intersection," Manes said. "We all know what would happen then."
Manes said Highway 63 is one of the busiest highways in the state. "It is the major route from Kansas City to Memphis for all Union truck drivers," he said.
Manes knows a little bit about big trucks; he drove one across the country making a living for 40 years. Manes grew up in Thayer and attended Thayer High School. He left to join the Air Force and after that moved to the Kansas City area where he began his truck driving career. He and his wife, Pauline, moved back to Thayer three years ago.
Manes proposes either an enclosed walkway over Highway 63 or a lighted walk-way with guard rails under the highway.
Manes has spent a great deal of his time the last few weeks talking to anyone who will listen to him about his concerns. "I have spoken to alderman Buddy Rogers, Chief of Police Gene Hatman, Thayer Mayor Allen Deckard. I attended a MoDOT meeting April 21 at Alton and was going to bring the problem to the attention of MoDOT District Engineer Tom Stehn. He wasn't at the meeting. I did voice my concerns to two young ladies representing his office. They took my name and phone number. Mr. Stehn has never contacted me," he said.
Manes has also talked to state Rep. Mike Dethrow who told him he thought it was a great idea and to get ahold of MoDOT He contacted 8th District Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson about the problem and has also yet to hear back from her.
"I drove a truck for over 3 million miles before I retired. I have seen these overhead cross-walks all over the country on major two- and four-lane highways. There is no reason why we can't have one here," he said.
"As a community we need to put forth the effort to start this project and see it through to its completion. Or are we going to wait till a child is harmed before we pull together as a community? I intend to follow this through to the end doing whatever it takes to make this happen," he said.
Manes said anyone in the community interested in joining in his project to protect the school children of Thayer can call him at home at 265-7696.