Site decided upon, but questions linger
Far from needing to move quickly ahead, the Re-2 school board may be flirting with trouble, judging from statements they made publicly at their last board meeting. Rather than having all their options lined up and ready to go, they continue to leave many questions unanswered. By limiting their options at this early stage they may be getting into quicksand they cannot get out of. There is no need to even discuss the philosophical arguments against their chosen site (which are many), so let’s simply look at the physical safety and cost implications.
The district has yet to assure development of this location on multiple levels. First, Silt is still awaiting approval from the state on the status of their application for expansion of a sewage treatment facility. Town water treatment facilities will also need expansion and upgrading if the school is to be served. Other utilities, such as phone and electric, have not even been discussed.
Secondly, Silt trustees have yet to approve water and sewer taps for the school district. No estimate is yet on the table as to the cost of running these approximately 2 miles of lines, whether pumping will be required, and what the permit and construction costs of boring under the interstate, railroad and Highway 6 will be.
Third, Silt must amend its comprehensive plan, as they have had no previous intent to expand the town limits east of Davis Point. This prospect also raises curious issues for those New Castle residents or board members who “wouldn’t want their children to attend school in Silt (or other) town limits” if the town were to annex this site into town limits. Also of concern is how much of Peach Valley the town will annex and try to serve with utilities.
Silt still has no clear idea what the whole project may cost the town over and above the cost for water and sewer. This project will definitely stretch town resources. As stated at the last trustee meeting, the town has no funds budgeted for this project for this year because no proposal was placed before them until 2002. (The project location was not even well known enough for legal counsel or school board president to locate on a map for a Silt trustee meeting in early January.)
Safety issues will still need to be resolved regarding Davis Point curve and intersection. Beside the potential for rockfall and an irrigation ditch (Ware Hinds) above the road, the steep bank on the south side falls into another large irrigation ditch (Cactus Valley) and then the railroad, posing numerous dangers for motorists and bus passengers. Other intersections along Highway 6 in Peach Valley, as well as railroad crossings, will also need attention.
No solution has been presented for any bike or pedestrian path to the site as shoulders all along this stretch are narrow and steep. Also, will the general public accept a 25- to 35-mph speed limit from town center to this site once it is built? Will the board hold to its commitment to limit traffic in and out of school, by closing the campus during lunch hour? Police jurisdiction over this site has yet to be resolved.
The district has yet to obtain a conditional use permit from the county for this location before beginning construction. They stated this intention to the Silt trustees and citizens earlier in the year.
No final word has been given for how much more money will be needed besides the current $18.5 million bond already budgeted. The school district has stated they will need another bond later to complete building facilities or athletic fields.
It also might be worthwhile also for district citizens to question whether a new school is even needed in light of virtually zero growth in student graduate numbers over the past three years, in spite of large numbers entering school there. Will a “Silt High School” help retain numbers that are being lost to other schools or districts? Will the $18.5 being spent really affect this loss?
The school district was unwilling to look at sites in the New Castle/Castle Valley area. Why have they been so reluctant? Numbers in the district seem to point more toward a need for a middle school in the Silt area, not a high school.
That’s all for now. Thanks for time.
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