WALWORTH — School Board President Kelly Freeman said that she’s biased against the DOT plans to move Highway 14 closer to Walworth Elementary School.
“Honestly, this plan is great for trucks,” Freeman said during phone interview Feb. 28. “But it’s not good for our school, our students or our staff and the impact on the village is significant.”
During the recent Wisconsin School Board Association conference in January, Freeman said she spoke with State Superintendent Tony Evers about the DOT’s plan. After speaking with Freeman, Evers wrote a letter to Gov. Scott Walker and Secretary of Transportation Mark Gottlieb.
“When I told him about it, he was surprised,” she said. “I could just tell by his demeanor that he would follow through (on contacting the governor).”
Evers’ letter asks Gottlieb to reconsider a portion of the plan. To see a copy of the letter, visit www.lakegenevanews.net.
“Although I am not an expert on transportation issues, I am surprised to hear of a plan that would consider moving a major highway right next to a school building,” the letter states.
Freeman said whenever she speaks with elected officials in the state, they are surprised by the DOT plan.
“When I mention the 53 feet, it always (generates) negative comments,” she said. “I think the feeling is mutual about that.”
Freeman said she isn’t sure what impact, if any, the letter will have on the DOT plans.
“They say they had chosen their final plan,” she said. “Then they decided to put in another spotlight at the request of the village.”
Evers sent one comment to the Regional News.
“I share the district and school board’s concerns about the plan to redirect Highway 14 through the Walworth Elementary School parking lot,” Evers said.
On Feb. 21, the DPI received copies of two additional letters from the Walworth School Board, Bougie said. The letters were originally sent to the Executive Director of the Wisconsin School Board Association John Ashley and Congressman Paul Ryan.
Bougie said the letters have been forwarded to the division of school and transportation issues within the DPI, and that division will investigate the matter further.
Freeman said she feels as though the school has had no voice in the matter.
“With the 550 children we have at the school, the impact on us is the greatest,” she said. “The relocation of the parking is far from ideal, the change in the turnaround (drop off) parking in front of the school and the environmental concerns are all just too much.”
Village president reacts
Village President David Rasmussen said he doesn’t place much weight in Evers’ letter. “It’s kind of late to start writing letters,” he said. “I doubt it will change anything.”
Rasmussen said it’s impossible for Walker to respond to every letter he receives.
“If he responds to this letter, guess how many letters he’s going to get next week,” he asked.
“He’ll be getting letters from everybody for their own issue or concern.”
Rasmussen said the school failed to participate in planning meetings, and the school board treated the highway as an issue instead of a project.
“It was something they were fighting against from the very beginning,” he said.
“Instead of it being a project, something that takes time and energy, it was an issue.”