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Opinion Letters What are we doing to keep children safe?

The letter below was presented by myself (John Cantrell) to the Macon County School Board on Aug. 3, 2010 at 5 p.m. meeting.

Re: Concern about safety and security issues for Macon County Students in regards to the future Super Walmart shopping center.

— Door to Door distance from Mtn. View Intermediate to Super Walmart = 1,700 feet This would take about 5 minutes to walk, and about 3 minutes to bicycle.

— Door to Door distance from Macon Middle to Super Walmart = 2,300 feet This would take about 7 minutes to walk, and about 4 minutes to bicycle.

Safety and Security Issues:

1. No safe way for students to walk or ride to Super Walmart No sidewalks along Wells Grove Road or Dowdle Mtn.

Roads were submitted on the proposed Walmart site plan as seen at the Town Hall Meeting on Aug. 2nd, and this plan was approved by the Town Board at yesterday's meeting. When asked why no sidewalks were shown on the site plan, Mr. Collins said that this was a State matter, since it was in the State Right of Way. When asked if the State was aware of the rocky cliff that currently comes to the edge of Wells Grove Road and runs about 300 feet that would interfere with students trying to walk to Super Walmart from the two schools, Mr. Collins said that he was sure that the State people were aware of that. When asked who was going to pay for the excavation of this rocky cliff and the construction of sidewalks, he again deferred to the State's responsibility and D.O. T. It was pointed out that currently students would have to walk onto the actual asphalt of Wells Grove Road in order to get around a rocky point at one point along Wells Grove Road in order to get to this proposed shopping center. This is a major traffic safety issue in my mind for 5th through 8th grade students. So, should sidewalks be built along both Wells Grove Road and Dowdle Mtn. road to help solve this traffic safety issue? And do they need to be wide enough to facilitate both pedestrian and bicycle flow?

2. Will this High Impact Shopping Center attract unsafe individuals who might drive or walk onto both of these campuses which are within only 1,700 to 2,300 feet away, a 5 to 7 minute walk? How secure are these two campuses to prevent this from occurring?

3. Will this close shopping center parking lot be a safe place for students to congregate at during after school hours, especially from 3:00 to 5:00 until their parents pick them up after work? And, will loitering become a problem for these students with the police? Is kidnapping an increased possibility with this shopping center being so close to attract students to child predators, who also can try to escape quickly with the 4-lane being so close for escape?

4. Will the thick wooded area behind the Super Walmart building (on the Pohlenz property) be a safe place for students to be walking and hanging out?

5. Is it going to be safe for students to be walking through or into the proposed SWM polluted retention pond(s) one of which is located at the corner of Wells Grove Road and Dowdle Mountain Road with no fencing or walls around them to prevent this from happening? These ponds will be "catching" the pollutants from the parking lot and trying to prevent these pollutants from getting into the Cullasaja river.

6. Is it going to be safe for students who want to walk, ride bicycles, or skateboard to Super Walmart from Macon Middle School to cross Clarks Chapel Road?

These are safety and security issues that I think that this board needs to address and be proactive about and I think there should be discussions between local, county, and State police concerning the validity of these issues, and if they are valid, then this board and the police needs to address these issues with Town and County officials as soon as possible.

Sincerely, John Cantrell

I have presented these safety concerns to not only the Macon County School Board, but also to our County Commissioners, and also to our Town Board, during the summer of 2010, with the hopes that this proposed shopping center would not be allowed to be constructed at this proposed location, because of the potential safety issues described above.

My question today is, is this community going to continue to allow a High Impact Shopping Center to be constructed this close to two of our schools? And if the answer is yes, then what is being done in order to keep these students safe?

John Cantrell — Franklin, N.C.


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