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February 26, 2013 | 01:03 PM
Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of stories about the Reek School District's $2.8 million remodel/renovation project, which voters approved Nov. 6, 2012. Future stories will focus on the proposed changes to the school's main entrance and capital repairs.

LINN — Going in and out of Reek School's parking lot at peak traffic times is no picnic. "Usually, in a parking lot, you like to have a separate entrance and an exit," said Reek School Board member Ryan Southwick. "We don't have that in this main area."

That's the paved area south of the school, a parking lot which may be easy to enter, but difficult to exit at the start and end of the school day.

As Southwick said during a Feb. 13 interview, "There's no room in there."

Click Here to see the current parking lot

Click Here to see the proposed change

He said the best way to turn around is to find an empty parking stall, pull in, then back out with the front of one's vehicle facing the entrance/exit.

"(People) are worried kids who are being dropped off and picked up could be walking through the parking lot with all this traffic," Southwick said. "Anyone could be hit."

That's why, in addition to repairing the deteriorating brick, windows and roof on the 1993 addition to the school and implementing technological upgrades, the board's referendum last fall included a plan to redesign the lot.

Although the structural deficiencies grabbed some of the limelight, Southwick said parking lot safety became one of the main factors of the $2.8 million referendum project. Southwick heads three of the board's committees helping to implement the project — one focusing on construction, another on technology and a third which will be crucial in seeing the parking lot redesign through.

The site plan calls for adding 36 stalls and essentially splitting traffic flow in and out of the L-shaped lot into two sections.

In the plan, an area in front of the current school sign would be designated as an "emergency drive-thru" space. This is where the current South Lake Shore Drive entrance exists. From there, the space to the left would be where buses would enter the western section of the lot which runs along Maple Ridge Road. That section would be "bus only," Southwick said. But motorists picking up children at the main entrance would only use the eastern side of this access as an exit.

The plan calls for a 180-foot access drive east of the lot, which would be entered from South Lake Shore Drive across from the figure-8 silo at the Town of Linn Nature Park.

The proposed entrance would be located at the top of a hill. "You should have good visibility there," Southwick said.

But there's at least one factor which needs to be resolved for workers to break ground on this plan.

Land possibilities

For the proposed entrance drive to be realized, Reek needs to buy some land.

The school has a land acquisition committee, which Southwick chairs, working on that.

"We're looking to acquire 8 acres," Southwick said.

He said Joe Kotlarz owns land near Reek.

"He currently has 89 acres there for sale, in excess of $2 million," Southwick said. He said the committee and Kotlarz are discussing the purchase of an 8.2-acre L-shaped chunk of that property which runs north and east of Reek's land.

On Feb. 11, the Reek School Board met in closed session to discuss the purchase. Southwick said the board took no action in closed session.

In an email Monday, Southwick said discussions about the purchase are ongoing.

However, on Feb. 13, he said purchasing the land could open the door to other possibilities.

"We don't have athletic fields," Southwick said. "We'd like to develop this stuff in the future. We're not saying it's part of the referendum, we're not doing it tomorrow by any stretch, but we would be affording future boards the opportunity to do that."

The parking lot redesign is estimated to cost $450,000.

Southwick said if the land purchase were to go through, they would hope to start with the lot project in May.


Tags: Geneva Linn

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