The Tempe Union High School District Governing Board is set to rewrite a weak resolution concerning the Loop 202 freeway extension and come out in full opposition of the project in November.
A resolution was brought before the board Wednesday night during its regular meeting. Board president Michelle Helm admitted she was leaning toward taking no stance at all on the freeway, but over the course of the meeting she was swayed by the pleas of the public in attendance and of board member Moses Sanchez.
Sanchez, an Ahwatukee resident, said since the Kyrene School District passed its own strongly-worded resolution opposing the South Mountain Freeway he has gotten 134 letters sent to him from people in the area encouraging him to take a stand against the freeway as well.
“I don’t believe ADOT is going to look at the Tempe Union High School District resolution and say, ‘We’re not going to build because they said don’t build,’” he said. “I don’t believe that. I do believe I’ve had enough members of the community contact me regarding this and to my surprise not a single one has said they want this to happen.”
Several people stood and offered comments to the board during the meeting.
“What about the open air campus at Desert Vista,” questioned Elizabeth Salemme, a parent of two Desert Vista students. “What about the many activities our students participate in outdoors? What about sporting events such as cross country, track and football? What about band? Are we going to have to issue gas masks to every member of the student body, faculty and staff along with every spectator who attends an outdoor event at the school?”
Jean Arlotti, a nurse practitioner at Arizona State University and parent of a Desert Vista student, expressed concerns over noise pollution, water, drainage and air quality.
“I work in health services and I deal with asthma allergies and take care of those conditions every day,” she said. “We don’t need an eight-lane highway right next to our schools in Ahwatukee. That will clearly worsen our air quality and increase our asthma and allergies. Asthma is the No. 1 reason kids miss school and have absences from school. That’s a critical issue.”
The governing board was asked to vote on a pre-written resolution but Sanchez and Sandy Lowe, another board member, expressed their desire to have the resolution re-written with a clearer stance. The board has asked staff to re-write the resolution and present it again at the next governing board meeting in November.
Helm said she was concerned the timing of the resolution might affect the outcome of the bond override the district is currently working on. She questioned if the board should wait to pass a resolution. Sanchez assured her, with applause from the audience, the timing would not matter.
Board members seemed to agree that their resolution might change if the Arizona Department of Transportation is able to clear up the community’s concern in the final Environmental Impact Study, which they expect to release in early 2014.
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