Lyndon school board demotes Sixth Street closure as facilities project option

LYNDON – The USD 421 Board of Education has backed away from a proposed facilities improvement project that would have closed Sixth Street in Lyndon and constructed a building across the street.

During its Nov. 13 regular meeting the board considered the proposed project after hearing a report from USD 421 Superintendent Brian Spencer about a recent facilities focus committee meeting.

During the public hearing portion of last week’s school board meeting, the board also heard from Don Jones, who said he was a 1969 graduate of Lyndon High School. Jones encouraged the board to abandon any plans to build across Sixth Street, instead recommending that property to the west of the school be considered for a building site or that construction should extend to the north.

Jones said the plan to close Sixth Street, a main thoroughfare in Lyndon, would “put burdens on neighbors in this neighborhood.”

“You’ve got two different directions to go here without closing Sixth Street,” Jones said.

Jones said he was not against demolishing the old elementary and high school buildings and suggested the board “make that gym over there your bus barn.”

During the board’s discussion of the building project, Spencer told about a recent television news story in which he was interviewed. When the story aired, it noted that Lyndon had recently been awarded a Safe Routes to School project through Kansas Department of Transportation, and indicated the proposed building project could interfere with the Safe Routes to School project. The Safe Routes to School project will construct sidewalks throughout the town and an enhanced-safety crosswalk across Sixth Street between the two schools.

Spencer said the television station had contacted him and he agreed to the interview, “but they made no mention to us about Safe Routes to School.”

“You never know what’s going to be on there,” Spencer said about being interviewed by the press for a story.

Spencer noted that in discussions by patrons about the project, the expense of closing Sixth Street was “a pretty hot topic.”

He asked the board members if they had heard comments about the proposal to close Sixth Street, and all members present (board members Glenda Bronson and Lisa Baker were absent) indicated they had received negative feedback about that plan.

USD 421 Board Member Lori Sturdy said she had heard from about 15 people who were not in favor of a plan that would close Sixth Street. USD 421 Board Member Lynda Farwell said she also had heard negative comments about the plan, but “it’s not like we didn’t look at a lot of options.”

Spencer said the expense of closing the street and moving the utilities, the amount of which is yet to be known, was a concern. He said that moving a high-pressure gas line located under the street “is going to be in the area of $200,000,” and noted the resurfacing of one block of city street during a recent city project cost $150,000.

“That’s a lot of money,” said USD 421 Board Member Dave Brecheisen.

Spencer said considering the Sixth Street closure as an option would slow the planning process, due to the need to determine costs.

“We could move more quickly if we weren’t crossing Sixth Street,” Spencer said.

He said he had met with a representative of BG Consultants, which could estimate the cost of closing Sixth Street, but the determination would come with a $7,500 fee that could possibly be split three ways and paid by the school district, the city and the county.

The board did not discuss contracting with BG Consultants, but Spencer said his estimate of the cost to close the street and move all of the utilities would not “be less than $800,000.”

USD 421 Board Member Melissa Herdman questioned what would happen to the elementary and middle school facilities if they were not incorporated into the project.

“People aren’t going to want waste either,” Herdman said.

Spencer asked, “Is Sixth Street a deal-breaker for the community? I hate to abandon it before we know the cost, but if it’s a deal breaker …”

Farwell said there was not much time to put a plan together if the school board was targeting an April election.

“So the consensus is to move Sixth Street away from option A and down on the list?” Spencer asked, with the board members indicating they agreed, and other proposed facilities options should be considered.

In other action regarding the proposed facilities improvement project, the board agreed to a contract with Piper Jaffray to provide financial services related to a issuing a bond for the project, and agreed to hire a construction manager at risk to estimate costs of proposed projects. Spencer said he would be meeting with construction managers to screen them, and the board set a special meeting for Nov. 26 to interview construction managers.

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