City hears request to close part of road

Published 9:17 pm Tuesday, October 9, 2018

On Tuesday, the LaGrange City Council considered a request from the Troup County School System to close a section of Highland Avenue to make it safer for students to travel back and forth from school to the new LaGrange High athletic facility.

“We do have a request from the school system to close just a portion of Highland, and that would be from North Greenwood Street to Marshall [Street],” City Manager Meg Kelsey said. “They are creating a wonderful and fabulous new athletic complex on that corner there, and they are concerned about the students getting across the way in a safe pedestrian manner.”

The council voted unanimously to hold a public hearing on the partial road closure. In the meantime, the city plans to notify residents of the request.

“The request is to abandon that block, which to Mrs. Kelsey’s point, there are no residents on that property. [TCSS] owns both sides of that area being closed, but it does provide access to North Greenwood for the residents of Highland and so forth,” LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton said. “So, they would have to go out the other direction.”

In addition to residents from surrounding streets, the city also plans to notify the Georgia Department of Transportation of the change, since it may impact traffic signals on the GDOT-controlled North Greenwood Street. The LaGrange Police Department has already reviewed the request to check for possible safety concerns, according to Kelsey.

“[The LPD] has been over there. They have talked to the assistant principal [of LHS],” Kelsey said. “Mark Kostial did a report. He is recommending to you to approve the request for the school board. He does have some drop off and pick up issues, which he talked through with the principals. They don’t seem to have problems with adjusting that on the Marshall Street side.”

According to Kelsey, the property owners affected by the closure will be affected. Kelsey said letters will be sent to residents on Marshall Street, Highland Avenue, Bacon Street and potentially Ridley Avenue.

Council Member Nathan Gaskin asked what measures were being considered to prevent the construction of the sports complex from having a negative impact on traffic in that area.

“RaLin is working on a safety plan right now, just like we did over at Troup High School,” said John Radcliffe, the assistant superintendent of operations for TCSS. “I’m pretty confident that just like when they built the Marriott downtown and cordoned all that off to keep traffic safe as far as the construction [there will be a plan]. Plus, we will be moving off the street probably about 40 yards back up onto the property. It will give us an access on the property.”

Radcliffe explained the plan for the athletic complex to the LaGrange City Council during the meeting. Because the TCSS is separate from the City of LaGrange, Tuesday was the first time the plan was discussed in depth during a council meeting.

“We are building a just at 95,000 square foot building right along Greenwood and Highland Avenue, and it will house a basketball, volleyball, wrestling arena that will seat 2,000 spectators,” Radcliffe said. “In addition to that, on the backside of the building, there will be an indoor practice field of about 45 yards. We’ll be going up Highland on that. We are trying to use the topography on the property itself to minimize some of the costs on that. It’ll also be used on a daily basis for athletic, physical education. As you know, the old gym that is sitting over there right now is in pretty bad shape, and it looks like we will just be demolishing it at some point in time in the future.”

Radcliffe touched on some of the challenges that the school system has faced in preparing to build the facility, including land acquisition. He also talked about how the facility will figure into the school’s layout once complete.

“What we’ve tried to build with it is a complex — if you will — with the circle that you see on the diagram. We have the current auditorium where it is at, which will become part of that circular area going over to the athletic facility as well,” Radcliffe said. “The idea about closing that [street] is that at least during business hours there will be free access for students to go back and forth from the athletic complex over to the main body of the school. As you can imagine, it is difficult building a school of that size in downtown anywhere.”

According to Radcliffe, TCSS already has permits to demolish some of the homes purchased to make room for the facility.

Thornton and Council Member Jim Arrington both brought up the possibility of improving sidewalks in the area while the ground is already “torn up” from construction.

“There isn’t a sidewalk on the east side of North Greenwood from the school to Moody Bridge [Road], and that is something that I’ve noticed that we might as a council want to look at trying to do something there. I see kids walking in the grass to school on that side of the street,” Arrington said. “I know that is a whole different subject.”

The public hearing on the closure of Highland Avenue between Marshall Street and North Greenwood Street will be held on Oct. 23 at 5:30 p.m. at 208 Ridley Ave.