|City Council approves new school site
|Posted: Saturday, March 2, 2013 12:00 am
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|Thursday’s meeting of the Murfreesboro City Council dealt largely with the acquisition of land for a new school to relieve overcrowding within the Murfreesboro City School system.
According to City Schools Director Linda Gilbert, Scales Elementary is experiencing the most overcrowding, and portables are being used for temporary classrooms.
Gilbert and City Manager Rob Lyons recommended approval of a land acquisition proposal for 25 acres in western Murfreesboro, currently owned by land developer Joe Swanson, who has agreed to donate the property in exchange for $1.5 million in utility upgrades on the site and his adjoining properties.
Lyons, Gilbert and city staff determined the best location for a new school is in the western section of the city, which has experienced the highest rate of growth, the city manager explained.
Lyons also detailed a proposed plan for entrance and egress from the site, which will be funded partially by Swanson and will include the construction of two roads linking the site to Franklin Road and Veterans Parkway.
Councilwoman Madelyn Scales Harris immediately questioned Gilbert about the decision making process leading up to the proposal.
“Who determined that this was the best site?” she asked. “Were other properties considered?”
She said the school board was caught by surprise by the proposal, and was frustrated by not having input in the recommendation.
“We considered topography to be a very important factor, as well as the location on the west side of the city,” Gilbert answered.
She said the school board typically is not consulted in the initial stages of such proposals, and the board passed the current recommendation unanimously prior to it coming before the council.
“How many other sites were considered?” Scales-Harris again asked.
Lyons interrupted Scales-Harris’ questioning of Gilbert, saying the staff considered approximately nine properties and decided on the Swanson site after some properties did not meet requested guidelines and others had problems with sinkholes.
“I drove around this property yesterday.” Councilman Eddie Smotherman said. “Would it concern you to know that it has sinkholes?”
Lyons said a “geotech” survey had not been done, but would be done prior to closing on the property.
He said such surveys were prohibitively expensive for each considered property, and properties are surveyed once the city has a contract for the land.
“Who determined that sinkholes were present at the other properties?” Smotherman then asked.
“City Engineer (Chris Griffith) informed us that there were some sinkhole issues at the other sites,” Lyons answered.
Scales-Harris then made motion to defer approval of the recommendation until “due diligence is completed” and such a survey is conducted.
The motion was seconded by Smotherman, but failed on a 2-4 vote, with only Scales-Harris and Smotherman voting in the affirmative. City Councilman Doug Young was absent.
Councilman Shane McFarland then made a motion to approve Gilbert’s recommendation, and it won approval on a 4-2 vote, with Scales-Harris and Smotherman voting in the negative.
The recommendation must now be approved on second and third readings before final approval is granted.
"25 acres... (owned by land developer)... in exchange for $1.5 million in utility upgrades on the site and his adjoining properties"
$1.5M in upgrades / 25 acres = $60,000 / acre.
Yep... no "I'll scratch your back" action between 'our' City Council that's entrenched in the local construction / real estate industry, and a 'land developer', going on... nothing to see here!! *rolls eyes*
On the plus side, and I am definitly not in the Swanson Family Fan Club, this school will make surrounding property more attractive as home sites. That means jobs and an increase in the tax base. Vets Parkway will provide good access to I-24, & I-65 via the 840 connection. From the point of not incresing traffic congestion, development in this area makes more sense that high density development along Memorial Blvd.I believe that, in the long haul, this "build it and they will come" strategy for school location makes more sense than trying to react to something like another "Seigel" gift of land. Great school campus,donated property but a poor location when considering that the infrastructure was, and is, inadequate.The biggest concern that I have now is will this school be large enough (or expandable) in order to serve the potential growth in this area?
Just another example, for the ones who do not believe, the Swanson and the other developers run this City and "own" our Council!
Aside from all the controversy over the land on which the school shall be built and possible “iffy-ness” of the relationship between the city council and the land owner/developer, I think it is a very great thing that the construction of a new school has been approved in order to relieve overcrowding in current schools.
Overcrowded classrooms are unhealthy for both the teachers and students alike. Piling more students into one classroom or moving them to portables temporarily can cause stress, distraction and lack of focus. Crowding and shifting of the students can cause tension to rise and disturbance to flare. Also, with more kids per class, it spreads the teacher’s availability and accessibility much more thinly which is unfair to the students and possibly detrimental to their education. And simply adding more teachers or teacher’s aides to a classroom may not be a successful answer either. Students of such young ages really need someone who knows them; their strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes. Without this, it makes it even harder for a student to succeed.
As said in an article from the Chicago Tribune, “There is so much wrong with an overcrowded classroom, but, perhaps most important, a qualified, experienced and enthusiastic instructor is diminished to a person who hands out assignments and reprimands. Our teachers have the opportunity to inspire our children to learn, but that opportunity is lost on a supersize classroom.” *
The early years of a child’s education can be the absolute most important in molding themselves and their brains for the future, so with Scales Elementary experiencing the most overcrowding, I think that it is imperative that Rutherford County act quickly to resolve this problem and it is a shame that the construction may be deterred due to such foolish discrepancies.
*Citation- Groat, Teresa. "The challenges of an overcrowded classroom." Chicago Tribune [Chicago] 28 Jan. 2005. Web. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2005-01-28/news/0501280288_1_classroom-split-class-overcrowded
"City Council decides to buy gas for police cars."
Scales-Harris: "What is gas and where are we buying it?"
City Manager Rob Lyons: "It's a petroleum based source of energy. We obtain it from an oil company."
Scales-Harris: "Does the city normally fill its police cars with gasoline?"
Lyons: "Yes Ma'am, it's the only way we can get the police cars to work."
Scales-Harris: "And it's bought from gas stations?"
City Manager Lyons: "We buy it from a source we can rely on."
Scales-Harris: "I don't think this is a good idea. You said it was bought from a petroleum company. I buy my gas at the Mapco on Church Street."
City Manager Lyons: "I don't want to work here any more."
It amazes me how people in this city react when someone actually does their job as an elected official and asks questions about things that effect the citizens. I applaud Councilwoman Scales-Harris and Councilman Smotherman for actually stepping up and asking questions, rather than just taking up space and voting yes to every proposal that comes up!! This "you scratch my back, I scratch yours" and "good ole boy" system has gone on TOO long!!!!
You obviously don't comprehend the fact that the city did its due diligence way before this issue was up for a vote. If Smotherman or Scales-Harris had asked their questions while that process was taking place months ago then they wouldn't need to waste the council's time. Murfreesboro is growing rapidly and needs more schools. It's ridiculous to hold up construction because Smotherman and Scales-Harris didn't do their own homework when they should have.
Additionally, when the city wants to purchase a large amount of property they have to go through someone like Joe Swanson. He's a developer who owns most of the available land in the county. In the 19th century farmers owned the available land but here in the 21st, it's developers.
When Mrs. Gilbert, Mr. Lyons, and the rest of the city staff work with a developer to find a suitable location for a school it isn't "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours." It's working together for a direct purpose.
It is obvious to me the due diligence was NOT conducted fairly or correctly. The key is what you said in your comments, " If Smotherman or Scales-Harris had asked their questions while that process was taking place months ago then they wouldn't need to waste the council's time." It's obvious that everyone was not aware of this "due diligence" that you allude to because the questions are coming out after the fact.
Login and voice your opinion!
The city has built and currently operates 10 schools. Have any of them fallen prey to a sink hole, charges of corruption, or ANY wrongdoing because of the current or past city government?
No. If you want to listen to 2 relatively new council members who lost unanimously on a ridiculous motion, go ahead.
Since you don't seem to understand how the city handles its decisions, they hold numerous public forums to provide forums for concerned citizens way before any major work is done.
Then, they trust people like Mr. Lyons or Mrs. Gilbert and the rest of the city government to plan and review all issues at bar, which they constantly do very well. Notice that they had 9 sites to choose from. That's not exactly slacking on their jobs by any stretch of the imagination.
They do all of this and much more so that when things come before the council to decide to be decided upon, every last issue has been taken care of.
I repeat, your two "best friends" should have asked those questions MONTHS ago so that they don't waste tax payer money to posture themselves as if they are saving the city from some sort of imagined disaster.
The school will be built at the site decided upon and will service the community for years to come. If Smotherman and Scales-Harris want to help with issues, they should help with the early leg-work and heavy lifting instead of criticizing the rank and file city employees.
What you see those two as "doing their job" is actually them trying to make up for not doing anything when their questions mattered.