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School, city & fire still at odds over Frontage Road

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POSTED March 24, 2009 4:34 a.m.
RIPON — After years of what seemed an unbreakable deadlock, the agencies with a viable interest in the new frontage road along the west side of Highway 99 are heading back to the negotiation table.

At least partially.

During a joint meeting Monday night between the Ripon City Council, the Ripon Consolidated Fire Board, and the Ripon Unified Board of Education, the topic of the frontage road – brought up by Fire Board President Dennis Van Der Maaten – dominated the latter portion of the meeting and brought about a decision for each entity to send two representatives to a committee that will specifically address the issue and look towards any possible resolution.

Complicating the issue of the roadway – which is currently built on the southern end right up Ripon Unified’s property and continues beyond it past Ripon Christian High School – is the combination of concerns voiced by district administration about the possibility of losing the ability to expand by the Department of the State Architect as well as key elements of the district’s only high school.

According to Superintendent Louise Nan, giving up that much of the high school could end up affecting property that’s currently set aside for future development of classrooms as the district expands, and the varsity baseball diamond, bus barn, student parking lot, and diesel tank would all be wiped out by the construction.

But in the eyes of Van Der Maaten, pushing the road through will not only provide improved circulation in the area, but also be a major boost to public safety by allowing police and EMS units to access both sides of the side streets that currently only have access from the heavily-used Main Street – including both Maple and Acacia which house the city’s two high schools.

“It’s almost appalling to me that people would want to stop something that would affect public safety here in our city,” he said. “I’d like to hear a good reason not to let that go through, because it’s something that’s extremely important.”

Retired city planner and current board member Ernie Tyhurst commented about the process the district is currently undergoing to shape its vision for the future, and how the safety and security of the students on the district’s campuses was one of those vital elements that was to be addressed.

Fire Board director Don Moyer asked Nan about the possibility of closing Ripon Elementary and using it to house future students as the district grows – an idea that the superintendent said had been considered but did not garner wide support within the school community. Moyer also suggested the possibility of lobbying legislators to do things like talk to the State Architect’s office and possibly even rework the educational code if it’s required.

While Nan appeared open to the idea of discussing mitigating factors, she also defended the district’s position.

“Nothing is going to change the fact that we’ve got a small, land-locked school,” she said – garnering agreement from Moyer.

Mayor Chuck Winn said that while the concept of meetings like the one held Monday was good, seeing something positive come out of the meetings was equally as important as having them.

“It’s nice to break bread and get together, but it would be nice to walk away from this some sort of plan,” Winn said.

Bryce Perkins and Van Der Maaten will represent the fire board on the newly agreed upon committee, while Mike Fisher and Jack DeLiddo take the reins for Ripon Unified and Garry Krebbs and Red Nutt represent the City of Ripon.

Another meeting between the three agencies will be held again in late June to correspond with the upcoming budget submission.
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