Just days after calling for better communication and cooperation between the Columbia County School Board and County Commission, elected officials stumbled into a ready-made issue to discuss.
The topic? A new access road for the Greenbrier school complex. And elected officials need to talk about it sooner, rather than later, to clear up any misunderstanding.
The new road, perhaps one of the more critical needs in the county, would provide a second access to the Greenbrier complex and fast-growing surrounding neighborhoods. Best of all for taxpayers, the more than half-million-dollar construction cost for the new road is being bourne almost entirely by the developer.
The problem that's come up is due to some unfortunate wording in a letter from engineer Steven M. Bryant to the school board, responding to the board's questions about traffic flow and safety on the new route.
Bryant's letter makes it sound as if the new entrance is designed to cut off the schools from the surrounding neighborhoods. "It would be our preference to move as much, if not all, of the high school traffic, buses included, out of Riverwood Plantation via the new road," Bryant writes. "We would look to discourage any of this traffic flowing back into the community."
The school board hasn't taken kindly to those words. "We can't be dictated to on the routing of our traffic," said School Board Vice Chairman Wayne Bridges, adding that trustees are worried that when the new route becomes a county road, the county could force motorists leaving the campus to use the new route.
County Commission Chairman Ron Cross says the worry is unfounded. "Why would we do that?" he asks. "We don't have any desire to get into the traffic flow. My only concern is in having an alternative escape from that location. And that's the part I don't want to see get hung up in details or personalities."
Indeed. Remember, too, that it was Cross who worked to get funding shifted to extend William Few Parkway to Hardy-McManus Road. While we didn't agree with that particular move, it's clear that the new road combined with the Few extension will greatly relieve traffic in one of the county's worst-congested areas. Cross certainly wouldn't work to open up William Few, only to shut it down to school traffic.
The Riverwood Plantation developers, who recently celebrated the opening of the stunning Champions Retreat Golf Club, can't be blamed for wanting to protect their neighborhood investment. And the school board should keep in mind that without Riverwood's investment, the new road wouldn't even be on the drawing board.
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