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City of Tiffin, school district come together on the sidewalk at last

TIFFIN– Clear Creek Amana (CCA) schools and the City of Tiffin may finally be moving in the same direction on a proposed sidewalk, pending one more school board vote.
At its Wednesday, June 11, meeting, the Tiffin City Council approved an agreement with CCA for a new sidewalk.
The two entities have long been engaged in talks about providing a safer route to school for students who have to walk along Highway 6. The issue dates back to a 2008 28E agreement between the district and the school, drafted when CCA was building its new high school and the city was working to widen Highway 6. The agreement included the installation of a sidewalk to run along the highway and through a tunnel underneath, with the tunnel expense to be shared by the two entities. The underpass was constructed, but later sealed until the sidewalks on either side were in place. The city has since built its portion of the walkway, but the school district has not.
With the planned Prairie West residential and commercial development located just west of the high school, completing the sidewalk has emerged as an even greater priority. The city needed 13,200 square feet of the school’s property to complete a street access into the new development, and so negotiated a deal with the school district to deed over the land to the city in exchange for cost-sharing on an eight-foot sidewalk and reduced or eliminated fees for a new east side elementary school.
The agreement approved by the council last week states the city will waive tap-on fees to municipal utilities and waive 50 percent of the cost of the building permit for the new school to be built on Park Road (formerly Jasper Avenue). In addition, while the school district must install a six-foot sidewalk, the city agreed to pay for expanding the walk to eight feet. The walk will extend from Ireland Avenue– which will be extended north to Highway 6– to the west side of the school’s property.
The only crack in the deal came when discussing the district’s deadline for installation; council member Peggy Upton was leery of the wording in the legal agreement that left it open to interpretation.
“It says the school district will use its best efforts to cause construction of the sidewalk by Dec. 31, 2015,” Upton noted. “What if their best efforts don’t get it done by then? Where does that leave us?”
CCA Superintendent Tim Kuehl attended the meeting to address any questions the council had.
“We’ll get it done, Peggy,” Kuehl responded. “That’s the bottom line. The intent is to have it done.”
Upton asked Tiffin City Attorney Bob Michael for his opinion on what would happen if not.
“Well, then it’s a question of whether they used their best efforts,” Michael replied. He suggested the agreement be re-written to remove any arbitrary wording about the deadline.
“We can eliminate those five words, ‘use its best efforts to…,’” said Mayor Steve Berner. Upton agreed, and said the district would be welcome to come to the city should problems arise in the installation of the sidewalk.
“As soon as we get the middle school stuff finished up, we’ll want to get going on that,” said Kuehl. “I’m confident we will get it approved. I’ve shared the agreement with (the board) and I’ve heard no negatives.”
The CCA school board meets the third Wednesday of each month, with its most recent meeting held subsequent to the publication of this newspaper. The new elementary school, estimated to cost $14.4 million and funded by a $48 million bond issue approved by district voters in February, is expected to open August 2015.