Another Authority Rolls Over

WEST VIRGINIA SUPREME COURT AFFIRMS DISMISSAL OF EASTWOOD LAWSUIT

Claims it cannot “infringe” on the state’s “prerogative” to decide on new school siting.

The Supreme Court ruled against the Eastwood lawsuit Petition, unanimously: Memorandum Decision.

By the time you get to the fourth page of the ruling you finally find that the decision not to enforce the Policy 6200 state Rule ban against unusually hazardous new school sites hinges on “the heavy burden a petitioner undertakes when challenging a discretionary action” and that it is “normally inappropriate” for the Court to intervene “unless the right or duty to be enforced is nondiscretionary. The importance of the term ‘nondiscretionary’ cannot be overstated – the judiciary cannot infringe on the decision-making left to the executive branch’s prerogative.

Apparently, the Court states it could have acted (“normally” would not have but could have) to enforce Policy 6200 in regard to health and safety, but for unstated reasons relating to the school site, chose not to. It’s as if the Supreme Court is “taking the 5th” against self-incrimination. After all, the major commuter intersection of the Mileground Road and WV 705 is a profoundly stupid and unhealthy and unsafe place for Eastwood Elementary, or for any new school.

There you have it: West Virginia Board of Education Policy and Rule 6200 202.06 (which is administered by the WV School Building Authority) bans new school sites at specific unusually hazardous, unsafe locations, yet for unspecified reasons regarding the multiple dangers at the Mileground site, the Court chose not to enforce the state Rule ban. Court to the state: This isn’t our mess; this is yours. You are the decider. You own it.

Unfortunately this Court decision enables potentially, even likely, dire consequences for future students of Eastwood Elementary on the Mileground.

Now across the area, it is all the rage to be angry at the Mileground intersection new school siting because of “suddenly” arrived traffic problems and worries.

Things continue to come to a head. Years ago, former Morgantown City Council member Don Spencer said the school’s original planned access/egress to the Mileground would “choke the road.” And because the DOH recently denied Eastwood access/egress to 705 if the roundabout is not built in time, this would force school traffic directly to the Mileground, which would indeed further choke the road.

And even if the roundabout is built before the school opens,* congestion will still worsen because the key to lessening congestion is not the roundabout but the additional lanes across the Mileground (and down Easton Hill), which are not scheduled to be built for another year or two. DOH studies show that the already congested Mileground average travel speeds will plummet with the new school and no widening, and that congestion will further intensify.

MPO Director Bill Austin said as much in a Dominion Post article recently, emphasizing the “need to make sure the road is wide enough to catch the cars. It’s hinging on that.” One would think that Director Austin well knows the Mileground does not have enough lanes to “catch” the cars and trucks and ambulances coming off of a new roundabout. That construction project is still a couple years down the road, at best.

So former Council Member Spencer was essentially prophetic. MPO Director Austin’s comment seems to confirm as much, backed by the studies. But none of this means anything for rendering an inherently unsafe and unhealthy location appropriate for schoolchildren. It can’t be done. It could have only been prevented, and should have been. Instead, residents and commuters will find themselves living with the monster allowed to be created at the 705/Mileground intersection. And the students? Remember them? They will be directly subject to that monster.

_______________________________

* It is certainly possible though unlikely that Eastwood Elementary will open before the construction of the Mileground intersection roundabout with its school access/egress spoke. While Monongalia County BOE Superintendent Devono has repeatedly told the media that Eastwood is on track to open in late January or early February, he has all the while told BOE employees (who have stated publicly at various school meetings) that Eastwood will not open until “spring” – thus affording the WV Division of Highways what should be ample time to build the roundabout school spoke into the congested highways.

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