Saturday, February 10th, 2024

Members seek permanent street closure

By William Kincaid
Photo by Daily Standard Staff

Map showing the proposed street closure for the Celina City Schools building project.

CELINA - School board members at this week's special meeting signed off on a petition asking Celina City Council to permanently close a portion of Holly Street so they can proceed with the construction of a new 7-12 grade building.
Specifically, board members requested to vacate 1.17 acres of Holly Street between East Wayne Street and Johnson Avenue. Many motorists use the stretch of road as a shortcut to the residential neighborhoods to the north.
City councilors are poised to vote on the petition at 7 p.m. Monday in council chambers on the second floor of the city administration building.
The new Celina Middle School/High School will go up where the primary or east building and high school now sit.
"We're asking for approval to vacate that so we can continue with the design of the proposed 7-12 building on that campus setting," said Nancy Tobe of Access Engineering Solutions at a city planning commission meeting last year. "It would ask for the vacation of Holly Street so we can connect both sides of the roadway and make it an overall campus."
The primary school is set to be handed over to construction manager Peterson Construction on May 20 for abatement and eventual demolition, according to school board president Carl Huber. Teachers must have all materials, equipment and furniture out of the building by May 19, he added.
The last day of school for students is May 9.
Late last September, city planning commissioners recommended that city council vacate a portion of Holly Street.
Tobe at the September meeting said she and others have met with city officials several times to discuss vacating the street that runs between the primary school and high school and past the middle school.
"There's no houses right there," said mayor and planning commissioner Jeff Hazel. "Residents would have to find an alternative route instead of cutting in-between the schools, but it does make it much safer."
From a city standpoint, the street vacation would not represent a major hardship, Hazel said.
"We're looking to support the schools and the safety of their campus," he added.
Commissioner Sharon Poor asked how the vacation would affect parents and bus drivers who pick up and drop off children at school.
"My main concern is shutting off the access to the high school, because if you've ever picked up a child at the high school, that is a major cluster, and when you're going to shut that off, there's not going to be that access in front of the high school for buses to get through, for parents to get through," she said.
Kathy Trejo of Garmann Miller, the school building project architect, said the new facility would be placed over what is now Holly Street and the pick up/drop off arrangement will be completely changed.
"We're going to allow for buses to come in from the back, students to come in from one corner, parents to come in from another corner, to completely fix that situation that you're describing," Trejo told Poor.
Commissioner Tom Hone said he was surprised no one from the public came to the meeting to address the vacation request. City engineer Vince Barnhart said property owners near the street were notified about the meeting.
"In my mind, this is a big deal," Hone said.
"It is a big deal," Hazel replied. "If we had houses on one side, it would be a no go."
"I get the idea," Hone said. "It's just that I know once you lose streets, it's like losing any public property or right-of-way of any kind. Once it's gone, it's gone for good."
Officials are currently working on the final site design of the new Celina Middle School/High School. Site construction is expected to begin by summer and wrap up in late fall 2026 or early winter 2027.
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Demolition of the existing Celina High School will occur in early spring 2027 and any final site construction will be completed in late spring or early summer 2027, according to the Bulldog Building Project.
"The district is planning to repurpose the existing Middle School building to house the Mercer County Head Start program and the district offices," the building project website states. "There also are plans to maintain the gymnasium and student dining spaces for extracurricular and athletic activities."
Head start and district offices are currently in the education complex, which will later be razed.
A new auditorium/cafeteria and a competition-size gym are planned for the new 7-12 facility but the fate of the fieldhouse is still up in the air.
"We will have community input on that," said interim superintendent Brenda Boeke about the eventual decision on the fieldhouse.
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