For years the Sullivan County Commission has turned a blind eye to the need for safe access to the new West Ridge High School, which opens this fall to an estimated 2,000 students. In denying the school board’s last-minute proposal to provide that access, the commission assumes full responsibility for it.
So what’s the plan, commissioners? You’ve little time — if any — to meet this urgent demand. Or are you going to continue to sit on your hands and do nothing, putting the lives of children at risk as school buses jostle for position on roads not built to accommodate them?
County residents whose children will attend West Ridge should understand that the County Commission has rejected every opportunity to furnish West Ridge High with suitable access. It is the commission, not the school board, which designs and builds roads. It is the commission, not the school board, which ultimately pays for them. Finally, it is the commission and not the school board which two years ago turned down a fully funded plan to build the road.
There is limited access to the new school from the north on Lynn Road and the south on Shipley Ferry Road. But the major access point, especially for buses, will be Interstate 81 from the west and east.
All traffic will exit the interstate onto Route 357 and then make a tight turn onto a narrow, two-lane road, making two 90-degree turns, and then coming to a dead end with Lynn Road, to make another 90-degree turn.
Think about driving a school bus through there. Think about trying to meet a school bus through there. Good luck with that.
Buses and cars will be backed up coming and going along this road waiting in line to make turns and making for a dangerous situation.
Since the site was first proposed, the need to remedy this situation has been obvious, but commissioners have expressed various individual reasons to ignore it. Why?
It quite simply has come down to childish pettiness and hateful spite.
Some refused to support it because they opposed the location for the new school and still do despite that it’s all but built. But they can’t get past the past to do what’s necessary for the safety of our young people.
One commissioner even stated that the money should be used for the education of our children. We would ask her how the children are supposed to get safely to school to get that education without a safe roadway? It’s an argument that sailed as soon as the contract to build the school was signed.
Some wouldn’t support it because they said the school board should pay for it. They say they don’t want school funds spent on purchasing land for a road. But it all comes out of the same county tax dollar. Another argument shot full of holes.
Fifteen commissioners voted against the proposal from the school board which, because of the commission’s previous obstinance, has increased the cost to county taxpayers of providing safe access by millions of additional dollars. A third argument dead on arrival since it was the commission that failed in its duties the first time around.
Now, the commission owns the project, and the longer it waits, the more it will cost and the less likely it can be done before school opens.
Fifteen commissioners own the consequences of their continued failure to act. Their pettiness is beyond shameful.
When the first injury occurs because of their failure to approve the construction of safe access to West Ridge High, maybe then it will get their attention. Hopefully the injuries will not be severe.
And hopefully the commission will not be faced with a lawsuit. But if it is, not one of the 15 who voted against safe passage to the school can deny culpability.