September 2, 2008

Metea Site is Part of Aurora City Council OKs Annexation

By Justin Kmitch

[email protected]

One condition met. Two more to go before Indian Prairie Unit District 204 can move forward with plans to build Metea Valley High School.

With nearly two dozen district parents, many dressed in white, cheering them on, all 11 Aurora aldermen unanimously approved the annexation of 121.56 acres at the southeast corner of Eola and Diehl roads and the preliminary plats and plans for both the new Metea Valley High School and St. John AME Church to be built there.

Now the district must take title of the property and hold a special board meeting to discuss environmental reports regarding the site before construction can begin.

Naperville resident and District 204 parent Jennifer Streder addressed the aldermen, before their vote, with nearly two dozen supporters standing behind her throughout the council chambers. Many were wearing white, she said, to show their unity to the council. No one spoke against the plans during the public hearing.

"As a community we voted on a referendum for a third high school. When we cast our vote, it was not just for our own children, but for what we thought was best for the district. Many of us cast our vote knowing that there would be no personal gain, but that the need for third high school outweighed our individual wants," Streder said. "As a collective group we ask for your support for the petition for annexation and your support in working with District 204 to build another high school in Aurora."

Superintendent Stephen Daeschner also thanked the council and St. John AME for their support and promised to be good neighbors who would make the city proud of the school.

Tenth Ward Alderman Lynda Elmore said she was excited to welcome Metea Valley into the ward and wished the district success in getting it built in time for the 2009 school year.

"This being sited in my ward, I'm very excited. The plans are a wonderful buffer for residential property separated from the industrial and office to the north," Elmore said. "Having the church and school put on this property couldn't make things any easier for us. I heartily support the program and the school for working with us on developing not only a good site plan, but also working on other issues the city has, relevant to walking and biking connectivity for the neighbors through this property to the Prairie Path. So it's been a pleasure."

With the annexation finalized, District 204 board President Mark Metzger said the next steps are "to get the title cleared for purchases and then leave the transactions to their natural conclusion and begin the construction." Before construction, he said the district also would host a public presentation with consultants to explain "what is and what isn't in those (environmental) reports and what it means."

The remaining two conditions won't likely be met as effortlessly as both parties said the annexation was. There is still no firm date for releasing the environmental reports, which contain the findings of tests for ground contaminants. The district is waiting for Midwest Generation to sign off on the reports.

Metzger said Tuesday, however, that he and several district administrators and attorneys had "a very productive meeting" earlier in the day, but he said confidentiality agreements prevented him from disclosing who they had the meeting with.

"There are still no dates set on releasing (the environmental reports)," Metzger said. "However, I now believe we will be in a position to know what the timetable for doing so looks like in a couple of weeks."

Earlier this month, environmental attorney Shawn Collins released a position paper listing concerns such as a former power plant on the site and power lines and gas pipelines that run through part of the property.

Collins is representing a grass-roots organization, Neighborhood Schools for Our Children, in a lawsuit trying to force the district to purchase the Brach-Brodie land it initially intended to buy at 75th Street and Commons Drive near Aurora. The district abandoned that plan earlier this year after a jury set the price of the property at $31 million - $17 million more than it had anticipated.

Metzger also reiterated that the district does not yet have an exact date for closing on the Eola site.

"Closing will happen when the closing happens," he said. "Those types of things follow their own course and can't be pushed or forced into a timetable."

Monday the district approved $9 million in steel bids for the high school. The board has already approved contracts for grading, excavation, precast walls, and roof and materials testing.

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