Board buys house to improve traffic safety at SHJH

Sean C. Morgan

The Sweet Home School Board approved the purchase of residential property next door to Sweet Home Junior High Monday, Oct. 23, to reduce congestion and potential safety hazards around the entrance to the school.

The board voted 8-0 in a special meeting Monday afternoon at the Junior High to pay $121,500 and property taxes for 2016 and 2017, approximately $3,600, for 706 Mountain View Road, which is located at the intersection of Mountain View Road and 22nd Avenue and neighbors the Junior High.

The property is owned by Carla Claasen.

Supt. Tom Yahraes said he wanted to publicly wanted to thank Claasen and her real estate agent, Jamie Melcher of Keller Williams, for making the house available.

“It’s an opportunity to enhance safety for our kids that walk to school, our buses and our parent drop-offs,” Yahraes said. “It’s also an opportunity to incorporate our operational flow, to make it smoother for buses and our parents. It’s an investment in our future, parent and staff parking as well after school events, whether it’s for school or community programming.”

“When we were looking at the bond project, one of the things that the survey said was safety is one of the important things in our district right now,” Business Manager Kevin Strong said. The traffic, bus, parents and pedestrians at Mountain View, 22nd and the Junior High driveway has been a congestion issue.

It’s been identified by the Safe Routes to School Committee as a high-risk area for potential collision given the amount of pedestrian, bus and vehicle traffic before and after school. The committee includes representatives of the School District, city and residents.

Strong presented a photo depicting the morning traffic at the intersection to the board Monday. In the photo is a pickup, and moments after it was taken, a student got out of the pickup and crossed 22nd Avenue to reach the Junior High.

The city has been looking for ways to improve it and pursued funding for sidewalks along Mountain View for years, said Jim Gourley, School Board member and former mayor.

The district looked at several options, Strong said. Those options included different properties bordering the Junior High.

The opportunity to purchase this property came up, Strong said, and it looked like a good fit for the district.

It can be used in several different ways, Strong said, and it will be designed as part of the upcoming Junior High renovation.

Ideally, Strong said, the design would separate bus traffic from vehicles dropping off or picking up students. It also has space for additional parking.

That additional parking may be necessary with the addition of a gym, more school activities and potentially more community activities at the school, Yahraes said.

Following the board’s decision, district officials are working with the real estate agent to complete the sale. It will include a due diligence period, with provisions for the district to back out of the sale.

Strong said the district will inspect the manufactured home on the property and conduct soil testing prior to finalizing the purchase.

Once purchased, the district may use the manufactured home as part of its renovation project, Strong said. It could serve as storage or office space, for example, while the property may be a staging area. It will sell the structure following the project.

The district will need to obtain a conditional use permit from the city, said city Community and Economic Development Director Jerry Sorte. The city will notify neighbors about the project, and it will require the approval of the Planning Commission following a public hearing.

The property is zoned low-density residential. The county assessor lists the real market value at $113,550. estimated the value at $161,000, while estimated the value at $121,500.

The city will require the district to install a curb and sidewalk, with a commercial grade driveway entrance, along Mountain View, Strong said. The city engineer estimated the cost of the 260-foot stretch at $15,000 to $25,000.

The district will pay for the property using its long-term maintenance fund because the bond measure did not specifically mention purchasing property, Strong said. The fund currently has approximately $1.9 million.

Voting to purchase the property were Jason Van Eck, Chanz Keeney, Debra Brown, Carol Babcock, Jason Redick, Ben Emmert, Jim Gourley and Chairman Mike Reynolds. Angela Clegg was absent.