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Our View: Friction in St. Charles

Published: Saturday, June 8, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Summer construction season is known to raise tensions for motorists, but it’s more than just drivers whose blood pressure has spiked around St. Charles lately.

An apparent misunderstanding about how traffic improvements near St. Charles North High School would be funded has created friction between the St. Charles City Council and the District 303 school board. Several members of the City Council believe they were misled about how much the school district would be willing to pay toward $500,000 worth of the work – per a proposed intergovernmental agreement – on a traffic light and right-hand turn lane at the high school off Red Gate Road. That price tag being lower than the total cost of the project, which is about $570,000.

Ed Bessner and Jo Krieger were among the St. Charles aldermen who voiced concerns this week about potential long-term ramifications of a school board committee’s vote to fund $125,000 toward the improvements, as opposed to meeting the city at $250,000.

While the communication about the intergovernmental agreement clearly was not ideal, city leaders should tone down their grumbling about the school district.

If District 303 Superintendent Don Schlomann or other representatives of the school district informally led the city to believe the district would pay more toward the improvements, that is regrettable. But the city made a rushed assumption before the school board process had run its course. The city approved the construction contract on April 1, long before the school board’s recent deliberations.

From our perspective, the city ought to take the lead on the traffic improvements in St. Charles, regardless of whether they are near the high school. School board members make a valid point that some of the added traffic bolstering the case for these improvements stems from the city’s Red Gate Bridge addition.

At this point, it appears too late for a compromise that would satisfy both parties. The city’s Government Operations Committee on Monday grudgingly approved the revised agreement with the school district. The school board is expected to give final approval of the revised plan Tuesday.

The question becomes – how will the relationship between the city and the district be affected going forward?

St. Charles residents deserve a school board and city council that can maintain a professional, working relationship and keep each other in the loop when their needs intersect. City leaders should rise above any lingering hard feelings and use this experience to improve future communication and collaborations.

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