City Council, school board meet to discuss shared safety issues

May 31, 2011

By Laura Geggel

School-zone construction, illegal skate-park activities are top concerns

With communication in mind, the Issaquah City Council and Issaquah School Board met May 26 to talk about issues that concern them both, including road construction near schools, illegal activities at the Issaquah skate park and whether the school board could televise its public meetings.

The council and the board talked about traffic the majority of the meeting. The district and city have several improvements in mind, including:

  • Adding a traffic light to the entrance of the new Issaquah High School parking lot, as well as a right-turn lane going into the parking lot and two left-turn lanes on southbound Second Avenue entering the school
  • Adding a right-turn lane to Second Avenue Southeast and Front Street South, and modifying the existing traffic lights near Issaquah Middle School
  • Building College Drive, which will lead to the new Bellevue College campus. The drive will run behind Grand Ridge Elementary School, and will provide an alternate exit out of the Issaquah Highlands, relieving congestion. College Drive is expected to be finished by the end of the year.
  • The council is thinking about adding a traffic circle to the intersection at Newport Way Northwest and Northwest Holly Street, near Issaquah Valley Elementary School

Traffic would also improve under a measure in the proposed 2012 school bond, which would move Clark Elementary School and Tiger Mountain Community High School to the location of the current Issaquah Middle School. In turn, Issaquah Middle would move to the current location of Clark and Tiger.

“If you swap Issaquah Middle School with Tiger and Clark, that intersection would get better,” Councilman Tola Marts said.

Traffic has already improved near Issaquah Middle, thanks to a revised bus and parent pick-up process. The district also reduced the school by about 200 students by changing its boundary lines.

After discussing road construction, the council and the board talked about the city skate park, near the Issaquah Community Center. Both agreed that the park is in a bad location, in an area that is not easily monitored behind a building and near a trail. Although many people use the park for physical recreation, others engage in less-savory activities.

“It is a good hangout for people who want to do bad things or sell things that are illegal,” Councilman Fred Butler said.

The council plans to move the skate park away from its current spot, but it does not yet have the funds to do so.

The two groups also reviewed the ways they communicate with the public. The council urged the board to televise its school board meetings so the community could watch it at its leisure. Other school districts, as well the Issaquah City Council, televise their meetings, Councilman John Traeger said.

Televising the meetings would be expensive, with the price tag between $100,000 and $150,000 to install the equipment, board President Jan Woldseth Colbrese said, adding that the board records its meetings on a podcast.

Still, she said the board would look into the matter again.

“This board is committed to transparency,” Woldseth Colbrese said. “It’s not for lack of transparency at this point. It’s a financial concern.”

Even with its critique of how the board shares its meetings with the public, the council still had words of praise for the board, and encouraged the members to spread the word about the district’s careful budgeting and nine consecutive clean audits.

“You should toot your own horn about how financially conservative you are,” Marts said.

The meeting ended with a clearing up of a miscommunication. Issaquah High School was slated to have an electronic reader board installed outside the school, but both the council and the board thought it was the other’s project. School administrators agreed to move forward with the plan.

The board met with the Sammamish City Council on May 25, and typically meets with the Renton City Council every few years, with the last meeting in 2009.

Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or lgeggel@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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