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The New Western Middle School

The Superintendent received this letter recently and had to share it with the School Board. Maybe the new site for the Western Middle School isn't all that great.

Aug 20, 2008

Dear School Superintendent, School Board Members, School Administrators, and Johnson Control.

I have been somewhat disturbed with the school announcement of putting a middle school above Wheeler field due to the problems the site will present. I grew up on 34th Ave West and Second Street until my college years. My life included sports at Wheeler field in all seasons. This makes me very familiar with the proposed site and the conditions surrounding the site. It is not expected that you are aware of the site conditions so I would like to make you aware of them. I suggest each person take a lawn chair and spend part of a day at the proposed site to witness what I am about to tell you.

1. The site is solid gabro rock with only a shallow dirt covering. Rock can be viewed as one walks along the railroad tracks looking toward the school site to see how the railroad grade was cut into the existing rock. Johnson Control personnel should survey the entire site with sonar to determine the rock profile before proceeding. Getting utilities to the site may be very costly to the budget and require a great distance.

2. Site access is a major problem. From 40th ave West access would require access through the Northwood Children's Services which I believe is unacceptable. Access from the east would require cutting through many blocks of residential neighborhood streets which I believe is also unacceptable. Access from the boulevard is also an undesirable due to the elevation change.

3. Noise and vibration is also a very serious problem for a school site. The noise and vibrations caused by the many trains descending the hill or pulling up the hill are unbelievable and the duration of the noise made going uphill lasts well over 15 minutes. Growing up near the tracks we were able to block the noise out of our minds. It is like someone living in line of an airport flight path and hearing planes flying over day after day.

4. Air pollution is also a big problem. When the many trains descend the hill each day, they require breaking to slow themselves down. Adjacent to the school site the trains emit oil-like clouds that surround the train and spreads outwardly. The train breaking system is such that each railroad car applies breaks. Some train breaks include two wells of oil called journal boxes while others have bearing breaks at each car axel which are to prevent the breaks from burning up as the breaks are applied. This can be seen with the eye and is very visible when there is an air inversion. Engines burn diesel fuel which emits powerful fumes and smells and the taconite trains spread taconite dust. Break shoes also emit dust.

5. The site is so isolated away from all streets and bus lines with the railroad forming an impassable barrier to civilization.

It is my hope this information is taken seriously because each item above must be addressed and resolved for the Wheeler site proposal.

Another issue I have a problem with is that the school system provides hard surfaced plowed parking for their staff at all schools with taxpayer dollars while the students are required to park mostly on the streets and avenues around the schools.

All high schools and universities should be required to provide student parking using the formula of one space for 2/3 the student the student enrollment. What other employer provides for employee parking and not for customer parking? All other developments in the city are required to provide parking by zoning code regulations for their operation before permits are issued. The new East and Macarthur West projects are buying up neighborhood houses that are for the purpose of providing staff parking I am assuming. Eminent domain for staff parking? Denfeld had a nice green area along 6th Street. Two tennis courts were constructed on part of the green space. Shortly after the tennis courts were built, (quite costly) they were removed and staff parking was constructed. WOW! ! !

John S******* 
**** West 7th Street 
Duluth Mn. 55807 


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