School advisory council concerned about safety on Sea Lion Ave

Heidi Zemach for SCN

Mica VanBuskirk shows the rest of the Seward Site-Based Council the plans for the electric department warehouse, and they're not pleased. Heidi Zemach photo.

Mica VanBuskirk shows the Seward Site-Based Council the plans for the electric department warehouse, and they’re not pleased. Heidi Zemach photo.

The Seward Site-Based Council, an advisory group to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Board of Education, is concerned about the planned entrance and exit for the Seward Electric Department warehouse. It leads out onto Sea Lion Avenue, directly across the street from the entrance to Seward Elementary School. They fear that large industrial trucks and delivery vehicles will increase traffic in an area where parents also deliver and pick up their children, and where schoolchildren walk or bicycle. It’s a recipe for disaster, several said after hearing about the plans at the first site-council meeting of the new school year at Seward Middle School September 5th. In the winter, when snow berms are piled high, making it particularly difficult to see around corners, and sidewalks are snow-covered, the situation would be even worse, they said.

Many on the site council, including area KPBSB representative Lynn Hohl, teacher Leigh Ray, and parent Mica VanBuskirk, had gone repeatedly before the Seward City Council, and contacted the Planning and Zoning department during the new warehouse planning phase, and had asked to be included in that process in order to assure the safety of the schoolchildren in the area. They also made a series of other requests, including a well-lit bike and walking path in the area, and that there be off-road landscaping.

But Thursday night, after VanBuskirk had talked with Electric Department head John Foutz, an invitation to the council to make requests for  landscaping seemed almost insulting. They felt their main concerns had not been heard.

Parent and meeting facilitator Mica VanBuskirk showed the site council the latest plans for the warehouse, and recounted her conversation with Foutz who said the trucks would have to enter and exit that way, rather than out back onto Seward Highway, because the official address of the building is there on Sea Lion Avenue, she said.

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Site council members agreed to ask Ron Long, the assistant city manager/community development director to visit with them and explain the latest plans, and answer questions. They also plan to attend an upcoming city council meeting to air their concerns.

Foutz has told the city council that the warehouse will have few employees working there, while overseeing the backup generator facility. For the most part it will be a storehouse for electric department work vehicles and emergency electrical equipment, keeping the vehicles in better condition than they currently are, stored outside in the winter elements, and providing quicker, easier access to materials that the linemen will need to access in a winter emergency. It also will have a warm-up room for line workers and their gear, which they had not had.

The council has raised a number of concerns about change orders and unexpected warehouse costs as its construction progresses. They recently nixed the idea of in floor-heating, and also raised questions about a certain type of space-heater.

The electric department will move from the old Railroad Depot building on Railway Avenue to the first floor of the old library building, and share the space with the planning and zoning department. That move might have been accomplished sooner, but after discovering asbestos embedded in the old library building’s insulation, the plans will have to be modified so as not to disturb it.

The City Council meets Monday night September 9th at 7:00 p.m. at City Hall. Citizens are welcome to comment about items not on the agenda.

4 Comments

  1. Should concerned community members be contacting John Foutz or Ron Long regarding this matter? This is poor planning on their part. With all of the construction going on right now, student safety is definitely a concern and will continue to be a concern with the increased traffic.

    • Based upon the past 26 months of my life, living on Resurrection Blvd. / Swetmann Ave., the students are at much greater risk from speeding parents.

      I’ve been living/working at home fulltime restoring our home; my wife lived/worked at home our first year. She and I have watched traffic and pedestrian patterns on this strip: morning, afternoon, and evening.

      Average speeds from parents are easily 35 MPH, sometimes 40 MPH- in all seasons. These speeds, in what transitions to a school zone, are unacceptable. To add to the problem, I often see cell phone use, and my personal favorite, texting while driving – two hands on the wheel, smartphone in the middle.

      These are speeds and behavior that wouldn’t even be tolerated on 3rd St. in town. And I don’t think our small police department should have to come up here everyday to babysit adult drivers who should know better. Even the high school drivers don’t drive like this.

      The city vehicles I see pass, and I see many, are driving so safely, that no instances of blatant speeding come to mind – and I say this especially about Public Works vehicles and the Electrical Department, who are usually below the limit.

      Before and after school, the elementary school children in the area generally stick to the sidewalk. The middle school and high school aged kids often walks in groups of 2 – 4 in either right-of-way beside the road, usually one on a bike or skateboard.

      I don’t live on Sea Lion Ave., but my guess based on how people drive ‘the loop’ on our stretch, with as wide open as Sea Lion is, the speeds are even higher.

      My concern isn’t a commercial or city vehicle hitting one of the children in our area, it’s a distracted speeding parent taking-out 4 children at once in a 4000 lb SUV. I was a former professional firefighter/paramedic 20 years ago in a good sized city, I know exactly how nightmares like that unfold.

      Based on what I’ve seen the past two years, the only thing the so called advisory group or parents should be ‘advising’ Mr. Long or Foutz, are concerning window treatments for the bathrooms in the new electric facility.

      Short of speed bumps throughout the entire loop (probably the only thing that will work), the added safe driving of the electric department would be a god-send to Sea Lion.

  2. SewardLocal…I suggest you contact either of them; their door is always open. Then put forth a recommendation based on what you feel the response needs to be.

  3. Why doesn’t the SPD ‘roll out’ their automated radar trailer? I haven’t seen it once on the roads all year, yet our tax dollars (through a federal grant I believe) paid thousands of dollars for this piece of unused equipment.

    It should be out in a different location every day. I live on Oak Street, and I rarely see cars going at or below the speed limit, despite multiple signs.