Enumclaw Council signs off on high school plan, talks traffic

Demolition, remodeling and additions to Enumclaw High School have received formal blessing by members of the Enumclaw City Council, who took time to debate traffic changes that will likely accompany the huge project.

Demolition, remodeling and additions to Enumclaw High School have received formal blessing by members of the Enumclaw City Council, who took time to debate traffic changes that will likely accompany the huge project.

Action and discussion regarding Enumclaw High were part of the council’s Sept. 26 meeting. While district voters had approved financing for the school project, it required “site plan approval” before certain work could move forward.

The site plan approval addressed a wide-ranging plan of action calling for demolition of the 100, 200 and 300 classroom buildings on the campus, remodeling of the food service area and administration wing and the placement of portable classrooms. The plan includes construction of a pair of two-story classroom wings, resulting in a building more than 245,000 square feet in size.

Prior to voting on the site plan, council members addressed traffic mitigation issues. Because the high school construction is being done with enrollment growth in mind, steps are suggested to handle greater automobile flows through the area.

The intersection of Semanski Street and Warner Avenue, directly in front of the school, already is a busy place during peak times – meaning those moments before and after the school day. A traffic analysis also pointed to potential troubles at the intersection of Semanski and state Route 410, as well as possible logjams at the corner of Roosevelt Avenue and 244th Avenue Southeast.

The most intriguing traffic element is the suggestion that a “compact roundabout” be constructed in front of the school at the Warner/Semanski intersection.

When asked if a traffic light had been considered instead, City Administrator Chris Searcy explained that roundabouts are generally safer when accidents occur. The city’s insurance carrier has pointed that out, Searcy added.

But Searcy also was quick to note that giving approval to the school district’s construction request was for on-campus work only. It does not assure a particular type of traffic enhancement.

A school district representative reported that the bulk of the construction work will not be completed until the end of 2018, with student occupancy expected in early 2019.

In other action during their Sept. 26 meeting, members of the Enumclaw City Council:

• listened as Britt Nelson, executive director of Plateau Outreach Ministries, discussed POM’s voucher program.

“We’ve been helping a lot of families,” Nelson said, noting that the organization had come to the aid of 275 needy households during the first nine months of the year.

“There’s a lot of families in need of support,” Nelson said, explaining that many end in financial distress when two incomes are reduced to one.

POM is able to help people for wide-ranging reasons, she added, explaining that one local resident was forced to pour finances into rodent control. Work on a nearby development led to a rat infestation in her home. With money headed in that direction, there was not enough left for other necessities.

The biggest demands are for help with rent and utility payments, Nelson said, noting that requests this year have exceeded 2015 and 2014 levels.

Of the families helped by POM, more than 70 percent are in an “unstable housing” situation. By POM’s definition, that means housing costs eat up more than half the household income.

POM’s emphasis is on keeping people in suitable homes, Nelson said, and there’s plenty of demand. There is subsidized housing in town, she said, but there’s a three-year waiting list.

• approved, on first reading, a plan that would turn 5.4 acres of land into 20 residential lots on the city’s western boundary.

The city has already approved Meadow Park Phase One and the most recent action was for Phase Two. The area in question sits along the east side of 244th Avenue Southeast, generally north of the Rainier Trails park.

Final approval was anticipated during this week’s council session.

• heard Mayor Liz Reynolds happily update financial hopes for getting a footbridge across the White River to expand the regional trail system.

There has long been an effort – by both King and Pierce counties, in conjunction with the cities of Enumclaw and Buckley – to expand the Foothills Trail. The extensive system sits in Pierce County and is close to seeing a continuous, 20-mile ribbon of pavement.

With King County as the lead agency, an effort was made to land a state grant to add pavement on both sides of the river and construct a bridge.

The project received a No. 2 ranking by the state’s Recreation and Conservation Office and is now dependent upon funding by lawmakers.

The goal is to “stay optimistic that the legislators fund this RCO program,” Reynolds said, noting that $7.3 million is already on hand for a project that carries a price tag in excess of $10 million.

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