Peters Township Council and School Board meet
During a joint meeting of Peters Township Council and the Peters Township School Board April 16, everyone learned the upcoming closure of the ramp leading to and from Valley Brook and Washington roads will result in a traffic nightmare. More then 11,000 vehicles, including school buses, use the area on a daily basis and will need to be detoured.
The multi-million dollar project will begin with the closure of the intersection of Old Washington and Valley Brook roads in mid-May. The ramp and access to Washington Road, along with use of Valley Brook Road from Georgetown Road in Cecil, will be closed about three weeks later for at least 14 months.
Michael Silvestri, township manager, said he expects the brunt of the detoured traffic will use East McMurray Road, and while the school district will most likely not be affected when the road closes in June, fall will be when the trouble may begin.
Silvestri suggested to the board that students should be prohibited from walking along East McMurray before and after classes. Another suggestion was that the speed limit in the area around the high school and Pleasant Valley Elementary be kept at 35 mph and that the 15-mile school zone be eliminated to permit a faster flow of traffic. A school guard will continue to be posted to permit vehicles access to and from the high and elementary schools.
Council member James Berquist said that what backs up traffic now along East McMurray Road are the left turns from the westbound traffic to both schools. There was also discussion of student parking and about parents who drive their students to school.
Cindy Golembiewski, board president, said she would encourage parents to tell students, “Get on the bus” in an effort to eliminate some traffic.
Acting Superintendent Joseph Dimperio said the district would need to monitor student parking permits closely.
“We’re putting a lot of traffic on that road,” Dimperio said. He is superintendent on a temporary basis after the December departure of former superintendent Nina Zetty. The board expects to have a new superintendent in place at the start of the 2013-14 school year.
Possible easements across property near the newly renovated athletic fields above Pleasant Valley Elementary School were discussed, but were rejected because of neighborhood disruption and the lack of time for construction.
Board member Lori Cuervo said one option to eliminate some congestion at the McMurray Elementary School, further east on East McMurray Road, was to open Bell Drive to traffic from the elementary school for drivers making a right turn only. A crossing guard would stop traffic on the busy road to permit drivers to make a left turn on East McMurray Road.
Silvestri said council had the authority to declare a right turn only from Bell Drive.
As the meeting was basically a workshop, no official action was taken.
In other matters during the joint meeting that is held annually, appointments to the township’s parks and recreation volunteer board were discussed. Of the seven members, three are recommended by the school board. All are appointed by council. Cuervo said the board has asked in the past for the committee members to give reports to the board, but have been told no.
The land at Elm Grove Park, the site of a former elementary school that was closed and demolished because of mine subsidence, is owned by the school district but is leased to the township. The 20-year lease will expire in the next few years. At one time, the district was looking at building another school. However, those plans are on hold. The township would like to repair the parking lot and fencing at a cost of about $100,000, but would avoid doing so if the district has plans to take control of the property at the end of the lease. The board agreed to extend the lease.
Council is currently working on a comprehensive plan that predicts the township will not be built out for decades. However, the plan calls for an increase of population from the current 22,500 to possibly more than 34,000. That would result in the school district population nearly doubling. As to where to put new schools to meet the increased need is an unanswered question. Cuervo said currently, most of the district’s school buildings are near capacity and that the board is limited on how much taxes may be raised.
Councilman David Ball said in 30 to 50 years when the township is expected to be built out, the current buildings will be “worn out.” Cuervo said there is not sufficient land surrounding any of the current schools to expand.
Near the end of the discussion, William Merrell, school board member, said in three or four decades, buildings may be obsolete as children would learn through technology from home.
When the issue of the school resource officer was discussed, school board members expressed their pleasure at the job the current police officer, James Stevick, is doing. This is the first full school year a police officer is assigned to the high school with the ability to travel to other district buildings when needed. Board members agreed to continue with the officer.