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CCA solidifies sidewalk agreement with City of Tiffin

OXFORD– An agreement between the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) school district and the City of Tiffin for the construction of a sidewalk-trail was signed by the school board Wednesday, July 23, during its regular meeting at Clear Creek Elementary in Oxford. The agreement stipulates that the district will build an eight-foot sidewalk from the west edge of its property (by the northwest corner of the high school) to Ireland Avenue, with the city reimbursing the district for three feet of the width.
The sidewalk has been an on-again, off-again, and at times contentious topic of discussion since planning began for the high school, which was opened in 2009.
The city has maintained the position that the city’s ordinances require a sidewalk. However, some on the school board have maintained the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) nixed the project due to the planned route going alongside U.S. Highway 6. The district added a sidewalk-trail alongside an intercampus road on the south side of the middle school in 2010 in an effort to keep students away from the busy highway.
Tiffin Mayor Steve Berner approached the board in December 2013 seeking a new 28E agreement between the entities for a parcel of land, and an agreement for the sidewalk, which would connect a new commercial-residential development on the west side of the district’s property with the rest of Tiffin. While the land deal was struck a month later, the sidewalk was put on the back burner ahead of a bond referendum for the new elementary school and an addition to the middle school.
It came back up briefly in June, as the board reluctantly signed a water and sewer cost-sharing agreement with the city for the new elementary site. In the agreement the city offered to waive utility hook-up fees for the new school building and issue the building permits for half their cost.
The proposed agreement did not stipulate how wide a sidewalk was required under city ordinance, no previous agreements on the sidewalk’s construction could be found by either entity, and there were questions regarding the city’s fee structure to hook up to utilities. The school board moved to table the sidewalk discussion until the July meeting in an effort to obtain more specific information.
CCA Superintendent Tim Kuehl presented the requested information at the board’s July 23 meeting, noting the city required a five-foot wide sidewalk, by ordinance, but wanted an eight-foot trail and was willing to reimburse the district for the additional three feet. In addition, the sidewalk was to be built on the north side of the high school and middle school, on district property, alongside the highway. Approval of the agreement would lead to the city finally issuing the proper construction permits, which district construction manager Ray Willoughby said were going to be needed very shortly. The city has allowed the district to do site preparation and other preliminary work for the new school without building permits, but would have the ability to shut down the site should agreements on the sidewalk or utilities not be reached.
Board members noted in June that the timeline for construction of the school, scheduled to be open for fall 2015, was critical.
Keith Johnk of Shive-Hattery said the new sidewalk, which would run past the controversial and still-closed tunnel under Highway 6, could tie in with it at some point in the future.
No cost estimates have been determined for the walkway, as there has been no formal design work other than a rough sketch showing a potential alignment.
“Our attorney says, ‘do it’,” Kuehl said, noting the city could theoretically just go ahead and put the sidewalk in themselves, and then assess the district for its cost.
According to the agreement, the city will reimburse the district for 50 percent of the building permit fees and waive the utility hook-up fees for the new building. While board members accepted the agreement, they were still wary.
Board member Bob Broghammer wanted a written agreement on the sidewalk’s design and alignment, to ensure what the district builds meets the city’s desires.
“I agree we have to build it,” board member Kevin Kinney said, echoing Broghammer. “I want it in writing that it meets the requirements.”
Johnk reiterated the city wants the new sidewalk-trail to be located along the north side of the school property parallel to the south side of Highway 6. The rough sketch shows the trail running along the right of way.
“Our concern is, we don’t want kids along the road,” Kuehl said. Because of its proximity to the state highway, the project will require IDOT approval.
“Our agreement was to put a sidewalk in to the south (along the intercampus road) to keep kids away from (Highway) 6. I wish we’d done a written agreement then,” Kinney said.
“That’s the past; we have to move on,” board member Eileen Schmidt said.