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Officials say site on Commerce Rd.
Jan 31, 2007 12:00 am
The county's road superintendent said late last week a potential site on Commerce Road for a new Watertown High School presents the least challenges to street infrastructure.
The site – about 66 acres on Commerce Road just north of the city limits – is also the least expensive in terms of site work needed to build, according to figures presented by engineering firm Civil Site Design.
Road Superintendent Steve Armistead said the county owns enough right-of-way near the Taylor property, which the school board could vote to purchase as early as Feb. 5 for just more than $1 million. It carries with it about $1.5 million in site preparation costs. Entrances would be on Elm St., Commerce and Parkerson Roads.
Other sites, mostly along Sparta Pike, are also being considered. One 60-acre tract would feature an entrance off of Beech Log Road and carries a purchase and engineering price of about $5.5 million. Another on Neal Road would cost about $3.15 million for land and engineering while a fourth site is slated to cost just more than $6 million.
Armistead said possibly necessary additions would include a turn lane, which he said was "really not that big of a deal."
"[Parkerson is] in good shape – maybe all we'd need is to put some asphalt on it," Armistead said. "And if we had to put turn lanes on Commerce, we have the right-of-way."
However, the streets narrow as they enter the city limits of Watertown, and Mayor Mike Jennings is ready to know what the county would expect of Wilson County's smallest municipality in terms of road and infrastructure improvements.
"I don't know that we've had a good discussion with the City Council and I about what exactly the city of Watertown is going to be expected to do," Jennings said. "And that's a factor.
"… Any side streets in Watertown are not going to be conducive for widening because we have narrow streets and we have houses that are basically built right to the edge of the right-of-way," Jennings said. "So there's no room to widen any of the side streets in Watertown."
However, he did say that the multiple side streets would potentially offset the smaller size of the roads inside the city.
"Anywhere that you build in Watertown where you're going to go across side streets could be a traffic bottleneck at certain times of the day," Jennings said. "Basically, right before school starts, right after school starts and ball games, that kind of thing."
He did add, however, that any sites using side streets extensively "needs to be looked at a lot."
The slower rates of speed inherent on smaller streets appeals to School Board Chair Lisa McMillin.
"You have wrecks all the time on Sparta Pike," McMillin said. "… I myself have totaled two cars on Sparta Pike because people go too fast. … So if it's a traffic and safety issue, Commerce Road is a much better site."
She said traffic near schools in Lebanon such as Byars-Dowdy moves relatively smoothly even though it is on a main street.
Perhaps more importantly, a site as close to the Watertown city limits as possible appeals to both Jennings and McMillin.
"For a small town, the school is generally the focal point of the community," Jennings said. "And I think the school needs to be very visible for the Watertown community."
School board members delayed voting on sites for new Lebanon and Watertown high schools when County Mayor Robert Dedman floated the idea of building a new LHS adjacent to the current property west of Knoxville Avenue. They could send a recommendation to county commissioners as soon as their next regularly scheduled meeting on Feb. 5.
Staff Writer Jason Cox can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 45 or by e-mail at email@example.com.