Lutheran school road becomes safety issue

Saturday, November 1, 2003

Someday, Saxony Lutheran High School is going to have 150 students in four grades. It's going to have 40,000 square feet under roof and 40 acres of soccer, football, softball and baseball fields and pastoral play areas. What today is a wide-open land will be a hub of Protestant parochial education.

Before any of that can happen, Cape Girardeau County has to flatten a "blind hill" portion of County Road 601 -- drivers can't see what's coming toward them -- pave a half-mile stretch of that road and use the leftover dirt to raise some low-lying right of way.

The first step will be asking Citizens Electric and Southwestern Bell to relocate their lines, said Scott Bechtold, county highway administrator.

Commissioners Gerald Jones and Larry Bock met with school officials Friday at the site to discuss the project, which will take place over the next year and be completed before the school's targeted opening date of January 2005.

"It's a safety issue," Jones said. "There will be so many people coming back and forth, popping over this hill, and it's blind. We're going to see increased traffic because of the school."

The current traffic count on the stretch, which connects to the outer road along Interstate 55 south of the Fruitland exit, is 109 cars per day. There's no cost estimate on flattening a quarter-mile of road, which county workers plan to do, but it will cost roughly $40,000 for an outside company to pave a half-mile with asphalt, Jones said.

The county also plans to widen that area by 25 to 30 feet.

School building planners said they are eager to get construction started. Having 57 students in the activity center and classrooms at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Cape Girardeau -- the school opened there with seven students in 2000 -- is making for crowded conditions.

"We have people waiting for next year who can't really get in," building committee member Marvin Petzoldt said.

The new school will begin with room for 150 and will expand to space for 350 in a second phase.

Petzoldt said the plans are completed, but he won't know the cost until plans are put out for bid in the next few weeks.

However, the school's capital fund-raising goal is $4.5 million. Candy Hahs, a Saxony teacher and publicity coordinator for the drive, said a committee has raised $1.3 million and plans to update that total in the next 10 days as pledges from school supporters are collected.

The next step is going to the 23 area Lutheran churches in the school's governing association and asking them to conduct drives in their churches, Hahs said.

335-6611, extension 121

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