by Kathleen Duff
Fifteen Baseline Road residents gathered with the Grand Island Board of Education, school officials and project designers in the fitness room at Charlotte Sidway School Tuesday evening to voice opinions about the proposed transportation facility (bus garage) to be located behind the school. The board is considering three conceptual site designs and is seeking input from area residents before making a final decision on which option will go to public referendum. All three designs bring school bus traffic in and out of the school property via a loop road along the back of the athletic field adjacent to Sidway and out onto Baseline Road by St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church.
David Duchscherer of Wendel Duchscherer Architects called the current driveway that runs along the south side of Sidway "a dangerous site." He elaborated that the "buses have basically outgrown the building, which was adequate 65 years ago..." (when it was built).
The residents questioned why the board was considering the Sidway site. Bill Zografos, project manager from Cannon Design, said that reuse of the current fueling station behind the school, the site's central location and proximity to the New York State Thruway and problems with the other four possible sites helped the board view Sidway as the best location. One site on Staley Road, for example, would not have the proper utilities and sewer and would make for very long bus rides for some students. Trustee Glenn Bobeck commented, "We are trying to design the best traffic pattern ... the best option for everybody."
Some Baseline Road residents were concerned about possible increased bus traffic in front of their homes (closer to Bedell Road), citing that it is already difficult to pull out of their driveways during busy hours. One resident suggested installing a blinking yellow light to slow traffic and lowering the speed limit during school hours from 45 mph to 25.
Similar restrictions, an increased police presence and the ticketing of cars driving on the shoulder of Ransom Road has improved student safety this school year at Grand Island High School and Veronica E. Connor Middle School. Superintendent of Schools Robert Christmann said that residents, school officials, town officials and law enforcement worked cooperatively to achieve a better situation for that town road, and that he welcomes similar cooperation for Baseline. He indicated that because Baseline is a state road it can be more difficult to get changes made.
The Rev. Earle King of St. Martin's asked about snow and water issues. Duchscherer said snow from the loop road would be plowed into parking areas along the athletic field, and rainwater would be diverted to the creek at the back of the school and to a new ditch along Baseline Road. Regarding new landscaping along the border between the field and the church property, King remarked, "We don't want a lot of obstruction."
Christmann promised to look further into the "great suggestion" regarding the speed limit and flashing yellow light and to continue to communicate with the residents near the school. He and the board have maintained that student safety is of primary importance in planning the facility, but also that how taxpayer money is spent and how any project impacts the entire community is important. "We want to be good neighbors," he said.
The three conceptual site designs, complete with cost estimates, may be viewed on the district website, www.k12.ginet.org, under "District" and "Capital Project."