Urbana district closing in on new school site

The Urbana City School district is closer to finalizing the site for its new primary school after its first site fell through but some neighbors are concerned about traffic at the new property.

The district spent an additional $5,000 this month to further evaluate building a sewer line on a U.S. 68 property before committing to the land purchase for its new pre-K through eighth grade elementary school.

Superintendent Charles Thiel said district leaders still anticipate the school being built between Vintage Drive-Thru and Campground Road, down the street from the Champaign County offices. However, the district wants to make sure it is the right fit before committing $925,000.

>>RELATED: Urbana set to start demolition of old school building

“It is a great bargain when you are buying almost $1 million worth of land,” Thiel said. “Having that insurance and being able to make sure that it is the best decision.”

Thiel said the sewer line will likely be paid for by the school and then transferred over to the city. That way other businesses that may develop in the area can use the lines.

Residents around the area where the school is planned to be built said they like living in the rural area.

“I like it is the way it is,” said Linda Erwin, who owns property on Campground Road. “I believe we need a new school. But as far as any other developments I don’t want any other developments around. I want to remain in the country.”

The school has spent $24,000 on the U.S. 68 property so far, Thiel said, paying the farmer that owns the land $14,000 and $10,000 more to extend the review period before they invest the full amount. The money spent will work as a deposit toward the purchase price if the school finalizes the deal. But if the school declines the land, then they will lose that money.

“We could back away,” Thiel said. “We haven’t settled the agreement but we don’t really see anything that would stop us from doing so right now.”

District leaders are also working with the Ohio Department of Transportation to make sure the new school complies with state traffic laws. He said he expects the school to have a single entrance with a stoplight.

“You have to worry about the traffic,” Thiel said. “There is a huge volume of traffic (on U.S. 68) and there is an increase and spike when employers dismiss.

“What they have told us in that location is we can’t have dismissal occur in that window,” he said. “We are going to need to move our dismissal time either earlier (but) more likely later than that time.”

>>RELATED: Urbana looks for improvements on state testing

Resident Ken Erwin said he hopes school officials make sure traffic is handled properly.

“I don’t mind having a school here, but I think it is going to be more traffic,” Ken Erwin said.

He said traffic has already increased in the area over the past five years. Linda Erwin said she is concerned about getting off Campground Road and onto the highway.

“We are concerned about the traffic flow,” Linda Erwin said. “I think it is going to be hard to get on U.S. 68 and we already have problems getting off of our road to turn left. If they were to put up access roads on both sides that would help the situation and maybe a traffic light or a caution light, not only in front of the school but also for our road.”

The property on U.S. 68 is the district’s second choice for the new school.

The district initially planned to build the new primary school near the Champaign Family YMCA on Community Drive, land it bought more than 10 years ago for the project. However the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency informed district leaders that the proposed site could be too close to an old city landfill and questioned if methane gas or other contamination could reach the site.

The issues stopped the project from moving forward for months.

Because of the delays, Thiel said the building designers are ahead of schedule. He said typically, construction has started before the minute details of a building are finalized. He said the building plans for the elementary school are almost finished.

“We met last week to talk about the colors of the carpet and wall paint,” Thiel said. “It really is done and by November, 95 percent of all the drawings and documentation will hopefully be finished.”

High school construction starting

Workers have been on site this week digging and removing dirt from the area where the new high school will be built.

The old east portion of the building has been demolished and crews are digging to establish a foundation.

“They started striping top soil off of the site and stockpiling the soil,” Thiel said.

He said crews will lower the construction site five to six feet and it’s an important step so they can begin to build.

“It is a significant number of truck loads and filler that needs to be moved out,” Thiel said. “It is good to see them moving dirt out.”

Thiel said the two mile distance between the high school and elementary school shouldn’t cause many issues for the district. He said some staff members will travel from school to school throughout the day.

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