By Hillary S. Meeks
Killeen Daily Herald
Bell County, school and city officials are cooperating to discover how best to improve 10th Street in Nolanville so a new elementary campus can be built.
All three jurisdictions have started talking to see how they can help so that the school can be built.
Bell County Commissioner Tim Brown said the county will definitely partner with Nolanville to make the 10th Street improvements.
"We frequently cooperate with smaller communities on projects like this and larger communities, too," he said, citing the example of giving Killeen funding for roads near the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport.
To what extent the county will help the city is unknown at this point, because there is no definite plan in place, Brown said. Once a budget and the scope of work are defined, the county will decide how much assistance it can give.
"We asked the representative from the school district when they wanted to have that school on-line, and they said, Yesterday,' so apparently, it is a priority," he said.
Killeen Independent School District System Superintendent Jim Hawkins has said in board meetings that the 10th Street lot – which is also bordered by Farm-to-Market Road 439 and Central Texas Expressway – is the best location for a new KISD elementary school.
"I have met with the mayor to help them understand why we think that's a good location," Hawkins said Tuesday at a board workshop.
But if the current condition of 10th Street is not improved to meet the traffic needs of an elementary school, then that is a "deal breaker," Hawkins said.
Billy Walker, KISD assistant superintendent of business and finance, said the road needs to be widened so two buses could easily pass each other.
"It (FM 439) is just a country road that a town is growing up around," he said.
Nolanville Mayor Carolyn Sterling said Nolanville welcomes a new elementary campus with open arms, but she is also aware that many roads in her city need to be improved. She is hoping this opportunity to widen 10th Street can be a rallying point for Nolanville residents.
"It will make them cohesive; this is something that is tangible, that you can see. We can do this," Sterling said.
During a Feb. 16 meeting of the Nolanville City Council, the project's construction costs were estimated at $1.66 million. That includes making 10th Street a three-lane road, with a middle turning lane; making the intersection of Avenue H and 10th Street capable of allowing buses enough turning room; and adding sidewalks and a subterranean drainage system along the length of 10th Street.
"I know the mayor of Nolanville wants to get sidewalks in so students can walk to school, and that would be great from the school district's perspective," Walker said.
The only request from KISD at this point is for the street to be widened. All additional improvements, such as the sidewalks and subterranean drainage, were proposed by council members, Walker said.
Legally, the school district can contribute no more than half the cost for street development along its property, he said.
"We do have a responsibility to make sure the street can handle the traffic going in and out of school, and we would certainly work with the city to put turn lanes in to keep traffic moving smoothly and keep the roads safe," Walker said.
Sterling said she understands the school district has its financial limitations, and she said Nolanville will pursue other avenues to acquire funding.
"The school district has to put their money into education, which is where I think a lot of Texas money should go," she said.
At a recent council meeting, Sterling said some funding options include grant money from the Central Texas Council of Governments or from the Texas Department of Transportation through its Safe Passage to Schools program.
The new school would be the 31st elementary school in KISD, following Skipcha and Saegert elementary schools, which opened last fall. KISD board members missed the mark on approving a site for the next elementary campus, to enable it to be completed by the 2008-09 school year.
Hawkins said the district now has until April to approve a site and start planning construction in order to open doors by the 2009-10 school year.
The 10th Street issue was one of the main concerns of KISD board member Mike Helm, who previously had been skeptical about the Nolanville site because of the street's condition. He said he feels more comfortable now that the "county is weighing in."
"Nolanville has a reputation of not keeping their act together," Hawkins said, but added that he is optimistic about this.
Sterling said she is aware of this negative view of her city, and that is why the project could be a launching pad to improve its reputation. She said both the school and road repairs are much needed in Nolanville.
"I think this will show the citizens – not only the long-term citizens – but to the newer people moving into this area that we are looking out for the safety of our children and that we want good streets for them to drive on," she said.
Contact Hillary S. Meeks at email@example.com or call (254)501-7464