Bus barn issue
incites more furor
proposed site near high school
Express Staff Writer
needed bus barn facility for use by the Blaine County School District
continues to be a hot button topic.
north from the present site of the proposed bus barn, the existing
school and the Woodside neighborhood are seen in the distance. The land
fill was put there temporarily and is not part of any plan, said Jim
Lewis, school district superintendent. If the bus barn is not approved for
this site, it will be turned into a practice field for the high school. Express
photo by David N. Seelig
Hailey residents protested the previously proposed site in Croy Canyon as
being inappropriate. Several other locations were researched and found
wanting because of space, traffic convenience and cost considerations.
school district is back to square one. It presented a plan to the public
April 30 for a facility to be placed on the property of the new high
school, where it was originally slated to be built. The proposed bus barn
location has been moved from the north side of the high school to a new
site south of the school, bordering a Woodside neighborhood. A four-acre
lot has already been cleared and mounds of land fill is sitting it.
the public who gathered at the Wood River Middle School voiced concern
about a variety of subjects after a presentation by District
Superintendent Jim Lewis.
feels like the meeting is to determine opposition rather than hold a
public hearing," said Steve Keefer, one of the dissenting Woodside
bus barn has not been approved, but there is a sense that preparations had
already moved on to the next stage. In particular, Keefer said that the
public had been left out of the planning stage. "The appearance is
that decisions have been made without the publicís input."
denied that the district had done anything in secrecy.
Woodside residents said they are concerned about diesel fumes from idling
buses, noise and safety. And they contend that the facility belongs in a
light industrial area and not a neighborhood.
Woodside neighborhood in question has crept closer to the school as more
houses have been built in the past few years. One house on Green Valley
Drive even looks as if its part of the school, since it is so close to it
and to the acreage in question. Buses already use Green Valley Drive to
reach the high school because the construction on the new school started
up again this spring and blocked off the old entrance on Fox Acre Road.
the four-acre lot had been leveled not to build on, but to ready it for
either a field or the bus barn, if approved. Land fill had been dumped
there a couple weeks ago erroneously. Lewis said that it was "not
intended for that location. If that put our integrity on the line, we
proposed building would house not only the services and maintenance for
the districtís transportation depot, but would incorporate the schoolís
science wing as well. Speech pathology, therapy, language and other
student services, computer services, and food services would also be under
this one roof.
customary in school districts to have the facilities next to
schools," said Lewis.
which Lewis displayed to the audience, showed the main service building up
against the hillside just south of the current school. Perpendicular to it
is a bus barn separated from the neighborhood to the west by a large berm,
trees and a 300-foot greenspace, allowing for separation between the
neighborhood and the facility. Lewis said that this is the most efficient
design, and provides adequate space for growth.
that the countyís schoolchildren population is growing yearly by more
than 3 percent, or about 100 children. At that growth rate, the equivalent
of a new school would need to be built every four years. "Thatís a
hard thing for this valley to accept, because weíve never had to do it
before," Lewis said. However, Blaine Countyís total population has
grown 40 percent in the past 10 years.
there is a neighborhood school public meeting 7 p.m. tonight at the Hailey
Elementary School. A Woodside Elementary School is slated to be erected on
already existing school land. One advantage to having neighborhood schools
would be to diminish the need for more school buses, Lewis pointed out.
time, neighbors objected also to the Wood River Middle School being built
on its current site in north Hailey. Lewis contends he has met with
opposition for every building project. "Itís part of my job."
The new bus
barn site meets the criteria in a number of ways, Lewis said. The school
has been on the site for 27 years, so the neighbors should be fairly
accustomed to it. In fact, most of the homes surrounding it were not even
built when the school was first erected. The bus facility, except for the
north-south location change, was in the levy, which the taxpayers passed.
Itís close to the epicenter of the population of school children. It wonít
affect traffic the way a new site would, because 16 of the 17 bus routes
already go to the high school. And a traffic controlling stop light is
being erected at Fox Acre and Highway 75.
$1.2 million price tag is the least expensive on the books. Other plans
would cost at least 50 percent more because of fuel and payroll, cost of
land and other infrastructure necessary to maintain an off-site facility.
Woodside resident Becky Keefer said "This is not a neighborhood
issue, but a land issue." She and her neighbors contend the bus barn
should be in a light industrial area, no matter the added costs. Some
sites suggested, and researched by the school district are Airport West,
the Woodside Light Industrial area, the Coors plant, Glendale Road and
like to make this a win/win with your input," Lewis said.
residents of the Woodside area remain adamant that they were not informed
previous to decisions on design, location and land being cleared. Another
public meeting was scheduled for May 7 at the middle school.