COLUMBIA — A committee evaluating the six proposed high school sites is asking for additional road and safety information, which is raising questions about what information should be considered when choosing a school location.
Though the school district can delay its decision, architect Andy Anderson said a site must be chosen in November if construction is to be completed on time.
With about a month until the school board’s Nov. 12 meeting, committee members are working to get the information they want, either through the school district or though their own contacts.
Glen Erhardt, a committee member and attorney, has asked for police, fire and emergency response times for each of the six potential high school sites as well as whether roads built to the school would be designed to follow city or county standards. Erhardt said he would need the response time and road information before making a recommendation.
“I have thought about several issues relating to students safety that I as a committee member, as well as a parent, believe I need to have additional information on prior to making a recommendation as to as to the site for the new high school,” Erhardt wrote in an e-mail to to schools Superintendent Phyllis Chase.
Fire Chief Steve Paulsell sent estimated fire district response times for each of the proposed six sites to committee members Thursday after Erhardt’s request. The times range from a 1.5 minute response for the Bass property to 8.7 minutes for the Vemer property. None of the response times caused concern for the Boone County Fire Protection District except for the Vemer property, which is farther than five miles from an existing fire station. As a result, Paulsell said, insurance availability and cost could be an issue with the Vemer site.
There is no response time requirement for the school district, said committee chairman and former Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Jim Ritter, nor is there a strict fire department standard, Paulsell said.
Though the Vemer property might require higher insurance rates due to its distance from a fire station, it is still a possible site, Paulsell said.
“Boone County is a developing county. We do build fire stations. If the school district were to choose a site that is a distance away, at some point we might put in a station closer,” he said.
Ian Thomas, committee member and executive director of the PedNet Coalition, said he is concerned about transportation to and from the schools. Ongoing transportation costs will be significant, Thomas said. He has requested a transportation density study of the roads near the proposed sites. Tim Teddy, committee member and director of Columbia Planning and Development, is getting that information, Thomas said.
Ben Londeree, committee member and Smart Growth Coalition member, has said that he plans to raise the issue of road costs at the committee’s next meeting.
Road costs were not included in the estimate report made by Engineering Surveys and Services and an exact cost estimate of roads will not be available by the Tuesday meeting. Dave Bennett, the engineer who made the report, said it was not possible for his firm to forecast road improvements for rural sites and then make cost estimates.
City Council members Barbara Hoppe and Karl Skala said the city staff could generate such an estimate, but the City Council first has to request an estimate be made. The council’s next meeting is Oct. 15.
Jim Ritter could not say whether this Tuesday’s meeting will be the committee’s last.
“It depends on what kind of progress we make,” Ritter said. “We’re certainly going to go into a discussion of the sites at this meeting.”
The meeting will be held 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at West Junior High School, 401 Clinkscales Road.
During its meeting, the committee will discuss each site and give each member an opportunity to speak. Committee members have a limit of five minutes to speak, Ritter said.
Though it is important for the committee to make an informed decision, he is not interested in prolonging the process.
“The school district could do anything they wanted to obviously, but at the same time they’ve got to recognize that in order to get the school opened on time they’ve got to follow the recommendation of the architect,” Ritter said.