COLUMBIA — The St. Charles Road Development site was ranked first by the High School Site Evaluation Committee above the other five sites under consideration for Columbia Public Schools’ next high school.
The committee’s findings were turned over to schools Superintendent Phyllis Chase, and she will present them to the Columbia School Board. Committee facilitator Jim Ritter said after the meeting he doesn’t know when Chase will do so.
However, to keep the current timeline for opening the school in the fall of 2010, the board needs to make a decision at its November meeting.
Safety, infrastructure, demographics and roads were the top concerns of committee members at Tuesday’s almost four-hour meeting, which drew some 60 people. Eight residents commented during the meeting before committee members rated the sites. Among them was Third Ward councilman Karl Skala, who rebuked the school board for not coming to the city to ask for infrastructure cost estimates.
Marion Dickerson presented a petition of 1,060 signatures to the committee asking for the site to be located north of Interstate 70.
The St. Charles site is north of St. Charles Road, east of the Lake of the Woods Golf Course and west of Route Z — placing it firmly in the northeast part of the district.
Committee member Skip Elkin said he liked the SCRD site from population density, sewer and road standpoints. “This area is probably the faster growing area and will probably continue to be the fastest growing site,” he said.
Committee member John McCormick said that the roads around the SCRD site are not bad and that a lot of the roads had curbs and gutters already.
Committee member Dave Griggs said a fire station on St. Charles Road was a positive trait for the site. The fire response time for the SCRD site is 2.4 minutes, which is the second shortest among all six properties.
The second highest site rating was the Bass property with a total of 97 points.
Members used a rating system. They chose a number from one to seven for each site that reflected its overall suitability in their opinion. “One” represented very unsuitable, “four” represented neutral and “seven” represented very suitable. The data was totaled and an average was calculated for each site.
Only two sites received an average rating above neutral.
According to a population density study provided by committee member and city planning Director Tim Teddy, the Bass site has the second highest population density within a three-mile radius.
The Richland Road site ranked highest in population density, and the Vemer site — which was approved for a new high school in June — ranked last.
At the beginning of the meeting, Ritter said the committee had four goals: to review the Bass site information, talk about infrastructure cost estimates provided by Engineering Surveys & Services at the request of the district, discuss adopting a rating system and discuss the pros and cons of the six sites. Ritter said members needed to be aware that road costs were not included in the infrastructure estimates. He said it would be hard to determine which roads need to be improved by the sites.
“Every site has some cost involved,” Ritter said. “We’re talking about really millions of dollars when we talk about road improvements.”
He said roads are important, but he did not want the road costs to be the only consideration by committee members.
Before members rated the sites, Dave Bennett of Engineering Surveys & Services presented infrastructure information on the Bass site that the committee decided to consider at its first meeting.
“The majority of the property is buildable,” Bennett said.
He said the property is within the city limits and, unlike the other sites, would not need to be annexed. Bennett said Tom Bass, one of the property’s owners, said he would extend the roads through the property.
Griggs asked Bennett about the cost the utility companies will absorb in providing service because development will likely follow the high school.
Bennett said there was no magic formula to determine that estimate.
Committee member Jim King said one issue members should take into account is not just acreage, but the available usable acreage on each site.
Committee member Ben Londeree said he compiled estimates of road costs for each site because a number of people asked for them to be done.
The numbers given to him by the city surprised him.
“I couldn’t believe the per-foot cost,” Londeree said.
Teddy said the city provides the road estimates as general numbers for planning purposes. He said they would rather estimate high.
Elkin, who is also a Boone County district commissioner, said the school district should be held to the same standards as other developers. He said that no other developer would be required to build all the major and minor arterial roadways.
Elkin said some students who go to schools in the county have to drive on one-lane gravel roads to get to school and the road issue is relative.
Committee member John McCormick said he appreciated Elkin’s comments on roads but sees a distinction in Columbia’s selection of a high school site. He said people can choose to live in areas with those conditions. McCormick said that families don’t get to make a choice when a high school is placed in an area with poor roads.
In the first question of the meeting, Elkin asked Don Ludwig, who is the chairman of the committee charged with determining school boundaries, which site would help the district hit the target numbers for the new high school.
Ludwig said the High School Enrollment Planning Committee had not begun work yet, but the boundaries will be drawn to reflect the population of Columbia Public Schools in all three main high schools. He said the farther north the high school is built, the more distance students will probably have to travel from the south to balance the demographics.
At issue is how Columbia’s demographic ratio, including such things as the numbers of students who take free and reduce lunch, will be maintained at the new high school.