The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Bessemer approves Iron Street closure


Tom Stankard / Daily Globe

BESSEMER AREA SCHOOL District Superintendent David Radovich encourages the city council Monday to approve of closing Iron Street in order for the school district to expand A.D. Johnston High School.


Bessemer - Pending approval of the Bessemer Area School District's upcoming May referendum, the Bessemer City Council Monday approved the closure of Iron Street between Mine Street and Moore Street and to deed that portion of the road to the school district.

Standing in front of a large audience, Bessemer Superintendent David Radovich said obtaining the city council's approval to close the street is the last step before the school district can move forward with its plan to consolidate students from Washington Elementary School to A.D. Johnston High School and expand the high school to be completed by 2018-19 school year.

Because ADJ is located across from the court house, Radovich said people may have concerns about parking.

Currently, he said about 20 students commute to ADJ. According to the expansion plan, Radovich said nine parking spots will be eliminated on Iron Street. Therefore, he said only staff will be allowed to park in the remaining spots along Iron Street, while students have permission to park free of charge at the BP parking and the old Bessemer Auto parking lot on U.S. 2.

Over the course of several months, Radovich said the district and its citizen's committee have met with area officials to evaluate the impact of closing Iron Street.

According to information given to the council, Bessemer City Fire Department Chief Neal Nelson indicated closing the street should not be a problem for the fire department.

In addition, Gogebic County Sheriff Pete Matonich said in a letter closing Iron Street "will have no impact on access to the sheriff's office, as both parking in the front of the sheriff's office remains the same along with alley access."

Matonich went on to say in the letter he believes the "arrangements (the school district) made for offsite parking for students will not impede visitors to the (sheriff's) office, the school or the courthouse."

In a letter from county clerk Gerry Pelissero to school board president Robert Berg, the clerk said the Gogebic County Board of Commissioners voted at a July 13 meeting to support closing the portion of Iron Street.

On August 16, the school district met with the Michigan Department of Transportation to discuss traffic safety near the intersection of U.S. 2 and Moore Street.

According to a letter from Benjamin Feldhausen, of MDOT, the Bessemer school district agreed to relocate temporary signs within the intersection and to trim hedges on the school campus. Radovich said the school district will also make efforts to educate students to use the existing traffic crossings at the intersection when crossing the street.

Radovich said Upper Peninsula-based contractor Gundlach Champion Inc. will oversee the expansion project.

According to information provided, the company has worked on 127 job sites across the U.P. and their total contract value is about $341,800,000.

Currently, Radovich said Bessemer is the only school district in the Gogebic-Ontonagon Intermediate School District that operates in two buildings.

Inside the expansion, Radovich said there will be a walking track above a new elementary school gymnasium. He said the walking track will be available to the public.

To go along with the expansion, Radovich said the school district will also begin a "four-year-old program."

"Our kids are leaving Bessemer to go to either Ironwood or Wakefield for (preschool)," he said. "We want to keep the children here."

Last school year, he said the district paid roughly $70,000 in utilities at Washington Elementary School.

By consolidating to one building, Radovich said the district will save money on utility costs and be able to offer more for its students because staff won't have to travel.

Mayor Kathy Whitburn asked where the playground will be located, Radovich said it will be located on the east side of the school and the area will be fenced in.

Council member Linda Nelson said she agrees with district's plans.

Following the council's approval, Radovich said the district can make progress towards educating the people of Bessemer about how much the expansion will cost.

In other action, the council:

-Heard a presentation from Greyson Morrow about impacts of climate change.

-Learned there are no applicants for the city's water operator position.


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