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School, lawyers talk Highway 14 project



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Rasmussen
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Rasmussen (click for larger version)

FREEMAN
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Freeman
September 25, 2012 | 03:37 PM
WALWORTH — The Walworth Elementary School Board met with legal counsel during a closed session Sept. 24.

According to state statutes, the board can meet in closed session "with respect to litigation in which it is or is likely to become involved."

The board agenda listed the reasoning behind the closed session with legal counsel as regarding "Highway 14 concerns." After the closed session, the board didn't mention the highway or meeting with the district's attorneys.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has suggested two plans for updating Highway 14 within the village. The village board has approved a plan rerouting both lanes of the highway on the east side of the square and closer to the school.

The alternative plan widens the intersections around the square, maintaining the one-way traffic flow.

At the Sept. 7 session, school board members suggested the board request legal counsel. Clerk Mary Heyer asked how far a new school must be built from a highway.

"The lawyers said that it had to be 55 feet," President Kelly Freeman said.

"Yet, they can build a highway within 40 feet of an existing school?" Heyer answered. "That doesn't make sense."

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Other legal questions were brought up at that previous meeting. "If it's partially federally funded, our attorney could really tell us this," Freeman said. "I'm sure there is some stipulation, rules or regulations about environmental or safety concerns. Any time federal money is involved, the federal government takes over."

Freeman said the board is being as aggressive as possible to make changes.

"We're doing everything within our means to fight this," she said. "We're doing everything to see that this doesn't happen."

Village President David Rasmussen called the closed session "appropriate."

"If I were sitting on the school board, I'd want to have that meeting too," he said. "Just to answer questions. There are times that you (as a public official) need closed session."

Rasmussen said village residents shouldn't read too much into the closed session.

"(The agenda) is pretty vague," he said. "They could be discussing the land acquisition or sale."

He also questioned the meetings with lawyers.

"I would think they'd have done it three years ago," Rasmussen said. "They're meeting with lawyers three years later. If they were really serious and concerned, they should be meeting with a consulting engineer who works with safety and transportation."

Rasmussen also suggested the school board focus on other matters besides transportation issues.

"Maybe they should be more worried about education in the school," he said. "How much money have they spent on (highway concerns)? How much of the administrator's time has been spent on this? Is it necessary?"

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