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CCA, Tiffin council compare notes

By Chris Umscheid
North Liberty Leader
TIFFIN– Tim Kuehl opened a joint meeting between the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) Community School District’s Board of Directors and the Tiffin City Council by saying, “We’ve got so many things going on between the school and the city, that the more we can collaborate and even just know what the other hand is doing, I think that is critical and helpful to the success of both of us.”
Kuehl, Superintendent of CCA, noted at the Wednesday, Aug. 9, meeting, the second between the two parties, and the first after several years of cooperation marked with conflict.
The first, held back in December, was productive, Kuehl said, as he welcomed additional meetings in the future.

Update on the 2017 School Bond Referendum
“The big things, for us, that I want people to take away are, it’s totally driven by our student growth,” Kuehl said.
He shared what he called critical facts, among them the pending overcrowding at North Bend Elementary, in North Liberty and at Tiffin Elementary. North Bend is already at 454 students with an instructional capacity of 450, Kuehl said, while Tiffin is at 444 (including four sections of preschool students).
“Projections for the building were at 406,” he added. His fear, he said, is student population will increase even faster than projected.
Kuehl pointed out people ask if there is space available for students in Oxford at Clear Creek Elementary and at Amana Elementary.
“We do have some space in Oxford and Amana, but even if we bussed kids to those buildings, in 2021, we’re over capacity. That’s not enough room to hold our elementary kids anymore. To me it’s a band-aid on a bullet hole solution. It also wastes a lot of our general fund dollars.”
The governing bodies met in the recently completed academic wing addition at the high school. A second addition is included in the bond and Kuehl noted the school will be over capacity in 2022.
“That was a shocker,” he said. “That wasn’t on anybody’s radar.”
Kuehl emphasized the district’s desire to maintain the current tax levy ($16.75/$1,000 of valuation in Tiffin) for the next five years.
“Don’t take that as a 100 percent promise,” he added, “But that is where our projections are, barring something even crazier from the legislature, we’re very confident we can make that stick.”
Taxes may well go up again, but from an increase in valuation, not from the school district’s actions, he pointed out. “Valuations going up is good for us for bonding capacity. But when everybody’s writing their checks, it’s not so fun.”
Councilman Mike Ryan took note of the increased traffic a second school building adjacent to Tiffin Elementary would bring.
“That’s something to consider,” he said. “We’re going to have a doubling of traffic to that elementary school, and that’s not an insignificant amount of traffic right now.”
Ryan added it makes completion of the Highway 6 roundabout even more critical. The new school would open in the fall of 2019. He expressed his support for the bond saying, “I understand the tsunami that’s coming at you, and a lot of that is, not that we’re responsible for it, but a lot of it is Tiffin-centered growth that is happening.”

Traffic signal project at Highway 6 and Ireland Avenue
City Administrator Doug Boldt said plans were approximately 50 percent completed at the time of the meeting. He added once they had a definitive footprint of the project, they would know if any additional right-of-way (ROW) would need to be acquired, particularly on two of the four corners. He anticipated having the information within a week to 10 days.
“We still anticipate bidding that project out yet this fall,” Boldt said, “or early winter with construction next year.”
He added there was no definitive completion date, but, “If we can find a good window there, I wouldn’t be opposed to at least suggesting that we get it in even before the end of the school year so we can get a sense of how this is going to work.”
Board member Jim Seelman said, “Our concern would be timing. If we had our choice, it would be done the beginning of summer.”
A 12-week lead time on receiving the signals is a factor in scheduling, Mayor Steve Berner said.
“I anticipate it (traffic) will go better this year,” Kuehl said of the traffic, “Because people are a year used to the stop signs, hopefully things are a little less crazy.”
Berner pointed out even when construction is in progress, there would be minimal disruption to traffic.
Conversation shifted to the possible need for advance warning signs, or even flashing lights, ahead of the signals, as well as a second roundabout to the west to slow down traffic even more out of consideration for students crossing Highway 6.
With the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) reluctant to lower the speed past the middle and high schools even further, and topographical challenges to extending sidewalks, Kuehl asked if the council would be supportive of a second crossing guard. Currently, the city and the district have an agreement for a guard near the middle school, a position Principal Brad Fox initially took on. Kuehl said his optimism in finding somebody for that position was extremely low, however. The council agreed they would be supportive and Berner added they would also look at other temporary means to improve the safety. Discussion also included possibly putting in a crosswalk with a pedestrian signal, similar to the one on Highway 1 in Solon, along with additional signage and/or warning lights.
“That’s relatively inexpensive,” Council member Peggy Upton said regarding signs and lights. “And that’s something we can do now while we’re waiting for the roundabouts.”

Park Road project
Boldt gave an overview on the timeline for Park Road improvements, which tied in with the construction of an interchange with Interstate 380 at Forevergreen Road. He said the interchange went out for bid in the middle of July which could mean some initial dirt work could begin yet this fall. As far as Park Road is concerned, he said the plan is still to shift the road toward the west.
“Eventually, that will come straight south, but once the developer gets done with that, we will have a temporary pavement from that portion south all the way to the school.” Boldt said the city would be able to redo its portion of the road, to ultimately construct a four-lane, limited access street with a boulevard from the Highway 6 roundabout to Forevergreen Road in approximately 2024, 2025 or even 2026 (based on regional funding). ROW acquisition has begun, Boldt and various members of the Council said.
The road may need to be closed for a brief period of time this fall as a developer moves dirt from one side of the road to the other. An ongoing dispute with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over a small stream is delaying the project, he added.
“Ultimately the developer would’ve liked to have paved Park Road yet this fall. I think more than likely it will be in the spring before the portion of Park Road that’s west of the existing Park Road gets paved,” Boldt said.
Mayor Berner noted a 10-foot wide trail is planned alongside Park Road, which will connect with a trail in North Liberty that goes by North Bend Elementary.
“So, there’ll be a nice 10-foot trail all the way from Highway 6 to North Bend,” Berner said. As for the potential closing of Park Road, he suggested they could keep it open with lights or flaggers to allow heavy equipment to cross the road. “They’ll have to do something, it sounds like it’s going to happen during the school year,” Berner added.
“We’re OK with it,” Kuehl said. “My transportation director isn’t freaked out by it.” Kuehl said alternate routes have been plotted and he thanked the Mayor for the heads up. Seelman and Kuehl agreed closing the road entirely would likely get that portion of the project completed sooner.
“Shut it down, get it moved,” Kuehl said. “We will not complain to you about that.”

Highway 6 and Park Road roundabout
Boldt said the first submittal of plans for the project were due Aug. 18, but there was a bit of an issue with the traffic projections. He explained those figures help determine the final size of the roundabout.
“The developer’s projections, the DOT’s projections and the review of that from the MPO aren’t jiving, and that’s about the best way to put it,” Boldt said. “We think the DOT’s projections are a little low, we think the developer’s projections may be a little high, makes sense to move somewhere in the middle, but we can’t seem to find that middle ground yet.”
Even with the initial plans due to the DOT, Berner pointed out it wasn’t likely to go out for bid until August of 2018.
“We did receive about $1 million of funding for that roundabout,” Boldt said, from both state and federal sources.
“The DOT likes the project,” he added, “because they threw a million bucks at it.”
Current estimates put the project at $2.8 million with two lanes, however a single lane roundabout would be around $1.9 million.
“We really do intend to have that roundabout open by the time your elementary opens, hopefully,” Berner said. “That is a goal.”