NEW CASTLE SCHOOL PLAN Residents speak of safety issues

Residents are worried about increased emergency response times to their homes.
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Residents opposed to plans for a new city high school got their day in court.
Judge J. Craig Cox of Lawrence County Common Pleas Court heard arguments Monday from an attorney representing Dawn McCune, John Albano and James and Bonnie Geddis, who live nearby the proposed high school site.
The neighbors opposed the city's decision to grant a conditional use permit to the school district, claiming the new school plans jeopardized their safety.
School board members want to raze the school and replace it with a campus-style complex. Several nearby homes will be taken and a portion of Reis Street will be closed to accommodate it.
Response times: The neighbors' attorney, Ed Leymarie, said emergency response times to the homes behind the proposed school were questioned by city fire officials in previous hearings.
Fire Chief James Donston said he believed the plans would result in a 45 to 60 second delay for firetrucks to reach those homes.
However, school officials later revised their plans and Donston said he was satisfied because it lessened the expected response time.
Leymarie argued in court Monday that the fire chief did not give a sufficient explanation of why he was satisfied.
Solicitors for the school and city say a revised plan by the district only adds about a half a second to the emergency response times to the area behind the school and should not affect the residents' safety.
Revision: Under a revised plan, the district will construct a road from the remaining portion of Reis Street to East Street. The old plan had a private school driveway in that area.
The neighbors' attorney also argued that the city erred in giving out the conditional use permit because the school district did not have a storm water management and subdivision plan in place.
Schools Solicitor Thomas Piccione disagreed.
He said city officials made their conditional use permit contingent on the school district completing a storm water management plan and subdivision requirements before they can start construction.
Piccione noted that school officials intend to ask city officials for permission to reduce the number of parking spaces, which would result in changes to the storm water management and subdivision plans.
"It would be a great waste of the taxpayers dollars to do that twice," he said.
Cox said he would review the arguments and issue a written decision.

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