Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
The Roswell City Council voted to approve a 60-foot encroachment of Del Norte Park for Del Norte Elementary School’s reconstruction set to be finished in 2020 with new conditions including a right-turn lane onto North Garden Avenue.
After discussion and deliberation, the City Council’s final vote was 9 to 1 with Councilor Juan Oropesa opposing. Oropesa said he was not comfortable voting on the terms and conditions unless more of a compromise was created between the city’s engineering department and the project’s engineers. The city’s infrastructure committee also voted 4 to 0 without a recommendation to full council.
Superintendent Dr. Ann Lynn McIlroy and City Manager Joe Neeb shared the lectern to answer the councilors’ questions and explain the facets of the agreement. McIlroy shared a recap of the City Council’s decision at the school board meeting on Tuesday night.
“I think this is a good agreement for both entities,” Dr. McIlroy said. “I think it serves the best interest of this school district as well as the city in providing good access to move kids out. It’s mainly the pickup time to move kids out and get parents on their way after school.”
McIlroy also said engineers have created an acceptable alternative to facilitate an efficient pick-up and drop off at Del Norte Elementary School. Architect Raimund McClain, Civil Engineer Scott Hicks, Construction Manager Mac Rogers, and Chad Cole, the district’s assistant superintendent of finance and operations, also represented Roswell Independent School District (RISD) to answer councilors’ questions on the matter.
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City Engineer Louis Najar said in February 2017 the original agreement was to build the new Del Norte school on the park’s property. On April 17, Najar said the city was made aware that the district chose not to build on the park and that the district wanted an extra 30 feet of the park. On Aug. 6, Neeb received the current terms and RISD revised its request to a 60-foot parcel instead of only 30 foot.
The new site plan is designed for the school’s vehicular traffic to enter at St. Andrews Lane, drive around the park to pick up or drop off their kids at the school’s new entrance facing Goddard High School, and exit out of La Paloma Lane with three lanes allowing traffic to turn left, continue straight, or turn right on North Garden Avenue. An additional right-turn lane on La Paloma Lane is also in the plan to divert more traffic onto North Garden Avenue. A city traffic study showed that 6,700 cars use North Garden Avenue near Del Norte Elementary School during the work and school week.
Najar explained that in negotiations with Neeb and McIlroy, the city and school district have decided on the following terms:
• The entire parcel of land for Del Norte Elementary School — 60 feet by 417 feet.
• A right-turn lane will be added to divert traffic onto North Garden Avenue. Parking on North Garden Avenue will be eliminated with new curbing from La Paloma Lane to St. Andrews Street.
• The city will reinstall any irrigation system, replace any trees and city infrastructure located within the 60-foot property.
• The agreement also includes playground areas for public use after hours. RISD will reserve the right to close the park if any safety risk is posed by the agreement.
• A sidewalk will be added on the east side of the school to connect the existing walking path around Del Norte Park. A fence will divide the public park from the school.
Neeb said some of the conditions changed for RISD to allow the district to accomplish its plan and protect what the city intended for the park and traffic safety.
Mayor Dennis Kintigh reminded the council that this agreement is not final. City Attorney Aaron Holloman said the legal counsel will draft for a final document that will be submitted to the Department of Finance for final approval. After this happens, Holloman said this finalized agreement will return to council to be ratified again to “err on the side of caution” and appease the state.
Rodgers said the revised plan did not include an acceleration lane as discussed at the infrastructure committee. He said the shorter design and curve allowed for a better view of oncoming traffic for drivers, instead of having them look over their shoulders. Councilor Jeanine Corn Best said that traffic on the corner of La Paloma and North Garden will be waiting “for a long time” and she asked for more expansion of the lanes.
Councilor Steve Henderson said he was in agreement with Best — which is unusual — about the expansion of the turning lane. Henderson said he would prefer to solve the traffic issues now, so years from now the public will question why the city did not plan ahead.
Councilor Savino Sanchez asked about Najar’s opinion on the proposed turning lane. In response, Najar said he agreed with Henderson that the matter should be taken care of now because the city will receive calls about traffic problems in the future.
Neeb said he was concerned that there was not enough room for the traffic to enter an acceleration lane between two telephone poles on La Paloma Lane and St. Andrews Lane to access Garden safely. He suggested starting the right-turn lane further down La Paloma.
“Right now as it stands, the school is not a very safe place to be a pedestrian,” McClain said. “The design is doing a lot to benefit that — that we’re not acknowledging right now.”
McClain said the parking and backing up on Garden will not happen any longer — the bus stop has been moved — and that the west parking lot will not allow traffic to La Paloma Lane and go out to St. Andrews Lane. He said the new design will “significantly decrease the amount of congestion at the corner” and that the capacity of the drop-off area has increased from 18 to 30 cars.
Sanchez said the district potentially closing the park after school hours posed a safety risk since he has witnessed both adults and children climbing fences to gain access to Monterrey Elementary School’s playground. He suggested having an open gate to avoid this risk. McIlroy said in her understanding that in the past, other schools have found used needles or issues with vagrancy, which poses a risk to her staff and students. She used Missouri Elementary School’s playground as an example of a closed playground.
“We don’t anticipate that, but if that did become an issue at this particular park, we would need to close it to the public,” McIlroy said. “Our (priority) is safety first for our kids. We can’t put them at risk.”
“Here’s the reality — traffic issues will not go to the school district,” Kintigh said. “They will come to this body (the City Council). The citizens here do not care in the sense of the traffic flow or the more drop off. The concern that this body is trying to articulate, if I might speak for the whole body, is the intersection of La Paloma and Garden. We need to make sure that it flows smoothly.”
City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at email@example.com.