Archive for Thursday, September 22, 2005

Now’s time to take the ‘Bittersweet pill’

September 22, 2005

Anyone who's ever tried to navigate city streets in the early morning or midafternoon, especially around Lansing schools, has got to wonder what's going on between the Lansing City Council and Lansing School Board in the discussion about extending Bittersweet Road.

Earlier this month, the two bodies met to talk about extending Bittersweet from its current dead end near Brook Meadow Road to West Mary Street, a distance of less than a quarter of a mile.

Yes, members of the council and School Board agreed, the extension needs to be built. A new elementary school is going in on Mary Street, pretty much due south of the existing Lansing Middle School campus. Extending Bittersweet would allow parents and buses to drop off children at each school via a direct route that didn't include Main Street or DeSoto Road - two streets that already are choked by traffic in the early morning and midafternoon.

Despite the resounding benefits the new road would bring, it seems neither body is anxious to swallow the "Bittersweet pill."

When discussion turned to how to pay for the road, which was estimated to cost about $1.4 million, no one stepped forward.

Sure, that's a lot of money - and it doesn't include the cost of a slice of property owned by a local church that would be needed for the road. In budget terms, $1.4 million would be the equivalent of about three years' worth of the city's entire street and sidewalk maintenance and improvements budget. For the school district, it would be the combined salaries for about 35 first-year teachers.

Yet the extension can and should be built.

The city said it already had a 10-year priority list that didn't include the extension of Bittersweet, but priorities change.

As for the school district, why should it be treated differently than any other developer? If a private contractor wants to build a housing subdivision on undeveloped land, he's responsible for the cost of streets and sewers.

Council member Kenneth Ketchum is right: In the end, he said, it all comes down to taxpayers.

"We all use public streets, we all use public schools, we all should pay the cost," Ketchum said.

Both bodies have recognized the need; now leaders on both the council and school board need to put their parochialism aside and figure out a way to get the road built before the new school opens.

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