A compromise solution to a nagging street and safety problem near a Centerville elementary school was approved Tuesday night but, like most compromises, it appears to please almost no one.
The City Council approved a motion to commit up to $24,000 of city funds this summer to acquire land and make minimal improvements to open a stretch of Fourth West between 1950 and 2025 North.The solution is offered to placate hundreds of residents in the neighborhood who have children attending Reading Elementary School on 2025 North. The only access to the school for vehicles is on 2025 North from Main Street, and students who walk to school must either walk along Main Street and then west on 2025 North or through fields.
The parents maintain that 2025 North becomes jammed with vehicles, including school buses, loading and unloading children twice a day and is a safety hazard. The children are endangered by the high volume of traffic, according to parents, and the jammed streets would prevent an emergency vehicle such as an ambulance or fire truck from getting to the school.
Petitions bearing hundreds of signatures have been submitted to the council asking that Fourth West be opened to allow a better traffic pattern.
But the council has balked, saying there are serious problems with completing the short stretch of road. It was supposed to be paved, complete with curb, gutter and sidewalk, by a developer and then turned over to the city.
But the street was not built and the developer's bond money was released several years ago, according to city records. The council has also said the problem was created by the Davis County School District, which built the elementary school on 2025 North against city wishes.
In addition, the right of way for Fourth West is still privately owned, split among four property owners.
The compromise approved Tuesday by the council - on a 3-2 split vote - appropriates $24,000 out of the upcoming city budget for land acquisition, grading, putting down road base for phase one of the project and building a gravel walkway on the east side for pedestrians.
But it includes several contingencies: The school district must also contribute $24,000; the city will only offer to buy, not condemn, the needed land; and if the project's cost goes above $48,000, its scope will be reduced.
Phase two of the project would include asphalt paving and curb, gutter and sidewalk, according to the proposal, but the council refused to set a timetable for when that work will begin.
"Once the 400 West street extension is opened up (even if only a road base surface exits), the city will consider the safety issue adequately addressed," according to the policy statement.
Two council members, Bruce Erickson and Kent Lindsey, voted against the proposal. Erickson said it violates a city policy of requiring landowners to install improvements, such as paved roads with curb, gutter and sidewalk, and the city accepting them only if they are built to acceptable standards.
The city is spending money to increase the value of the private property bordering the street, he said, which violates city policy and could compromise the city's position with other developers.
Erickson proposed an alternate solution, calling for no parking along the school site on 2025 North; construction of a full-sized turnaround on the school's west side to handle buses and other large vehicles; and construction of a walkway for pedestrians along the Fourth West site.
Lindsey said he understands the problem and agrees it is a safety issue, but said it is not an unusual one in the city. There are other school sites that also need street and traffic improvements, Lindsey said, adding the city policy is to accept fully constructed streets from developers, not get into the street construction business.