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by Meg Bonacorsi
WAUSAU (WAOW) -- A local union is at odds with the city of Wausau over a volunteer crossing guard. But city leaders say they haven't done anything wrong.
The union filed a grievance with the city because they recently found out that a retired Wausau man has been voluntarily acting as a crossing guard at a local elementary school for the past six months.
86 year old Warren Eschenbach, a retired crossing guard, lives just two doors down from Riverview Elementary.
He says, "It's what they call a friendly neighborhood. And that's the way we keep it."
Teachers have always helped students cross here safely, but after the area was re-structured Warren thought they could use some extra help.
Principal Steve Miller says, "He said, you know, this gives me a reason to get up in the morning to come and help these kids in the neighborhood."
But for a local union that represents crossing guards, it isn't that simple. Representatives didn't want to go on camera but say if a crossing guard is needed, then one should be officially hired by the city.
They consider volunteering as something done sporadically, not on a regular basis. They also question liability. The principal says the school is insured and every volunteer undergoes a background check. To him, Warren is no different, for example, than someone who helps out in the school library.
Miller says, "Here we have a community member who's giving back to the community and offering something to the children to keep them safe and so I just view it as a good thing and I'm not sure why someone would find fault with that but obviously somebody has."
The principal isn't the only one surprised.
5th grader Megan Sichterman says, "I was really sad because all the kids really like him. He's really nice to everybody and I was kind of scared at the same time that we wouldn't see him on the corner anymore."
As for Warren, he's taking the controversy in stride.
"I just laughed at it... For a half an hour job, do you really need to pay somebody? I don't see it that way."
Since Warren isn't employed by the city, Wausau leaders have denied the union's claim that a contract has been violated. Union members say they're appealing the cities denial.
The Riverview principal tells me he hasn't received any word from school leaders about pulling Warren off crosswalk duty. So unless something happens, he's going to stay on that corner.
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