Farmersville will “tear down that wall.”
Referring in jest to Ronald Reagan’s famous words about the demolishing of the Berlin Wall, Raymond Navarro said the gate blocking vehicle traffic at the intersection of E. Citrus Street and Freedom Drive at Freedom Elementary School will be removed.
Navarro, director of maintenance/operations/facilities/transportation for the Farmersville Unified School District, made his comments during a discussion of the gate at the June 18 meeting of the FUSD Board of Trustees. Navarro said the district will issue a negative declaration for opening the gate to amend the California Environmental Quality Act documents for Freedom Elementary. The process of amending its CEQA documents will cost the district about $10,000, according to Navarro.
“It should have been an action item on this agenda, so we will make sure it is on the next agenda,” Navarro told the school board members.
Navarro said once the notice of a negative declaration has been published there will be a 30-day review period for the public to comment on the issue. Navarro said the Farmersville City Council has said it will not file any appeals or objections to the negative declaration.
“I will have our attorneys and CEQA consultants make sure we have crossed our T’s and dotted our I’s,” Navarro said.
FUSD Superintendent Dr. Christina Luna said since she started with the district a year ago there have been two instances where emergency vehicles were delayed because of the gate on E. Citrus St. While no one was seriously injured, Board member Alex Reyes was worried if an emergency were to occur where minutes could mean the difference between life and death.
“We haven’t had a situation where a kid has been really hurt, but what happens if, and I hope this doesn’t ever happen, someone has a heart attack or a car an asthma attack and they can’t get a car through?,” Reyes said. “Would the liability be assumed by the City? They are creating a hazard by keeping the gate locked.”
There was also an instance where three buses returning from a field trip came down the gated street, causing another safety issue.
“I had three, 40-foot buses that residents on the street were asking to back up all the way down the street because they couldn’t turn around,” Navarro said, noting the inherent danger in buses backing down a residential street.
On May 13, the City Council discussed the controversial gate which causes heavy traffic congestion on East Citrus when students are dropped off. Drivers then make U-turns on the street to head back to Farmersville Boulevard. There have even been reports of vehicles causing property damage in the chaotic morning traffic.Then City Manager Rene Miller pointed out that the City’s right-of-way ended at the fence and that it was up to the school district to get the necessary paper work done to open the street.
The Farmersville school district had a CEQA done for a middle school, but instead built Freedom Elementary, which must have an independent CEQA before the gate can be removed. The issue of the gate, which blocks east and west bound traffic from crossing the intersection at Freedom Drive and E. Citrus Street, has been a sore spot with the community since the school was built in 1993.
The City Council finally approved to open half the street and allow eastbound traffic only to cross the intersection at its May 14, 2012 meeting.