Lindbergh views residents’ safety concerns as ‘trivial,’ Ruzicka says

Plans for Long best option for community, children’s safety, spokeswoman says

By Kari Williams

Doercrest Manor residents’ safety concerns are viewed as “trivial” by Lindbergh Schools, according to Crestwood resident Frank Ruzicka.

Ruzicka, who lives on Doercrest Drive, addressed the Board of Aldermen last week to once again speak about safety concerns relating to the expansion of a Long Elementary School bus route onto Doercrest Drive.

Doercrest residents are “full support” of the Long Elementary expansion, but, according to Ruzicka, “stand firmly opposed to any use of Doercrest Drive to provide access to the school.”

He requested that Crestwood’s city attorney, public safety officials, city administrator and public works officials “look closely at these safety concerns and respond accordingly.”

“This entire project has somehow rushed through the approval process,” Ruzicka said, “and the fear of upsetting our award-winning school district seems to be the point at which we don’t want to raise our hand and say anything.”

However, Beth Johnston, Lindbergh Schools community relations director, said the current construction is a result of the school district going through “all the proper channels for permits.” The process took “almost a year,” according to Johnston, which included permit approval from St. Louis County, Crestwood and the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District.

Ruzicka said he is willing to “come to the negotiating table” to discuss safety concerns and address the following issues:

• Incorporate traffic-control devices on the proposed gate.

• Enter into maintenance agreement.

• Erect clear signage stating the drive is exit only — “under the penalty of law.”

Ruzicka said Lindbergh officials need to come before the board to address the safety concerns.

“These folks need to sit down to the table and understand we’re not just going to write a blank check here,” he said. “When they go and do this, a recorded maintenance agreement should be filed and run with that property in perpetuity.”

Lindbergh Schools did not request end-of-road markers, which are currently at the end of Doercrest Drive, according to Ruzicka.

“These markers and barriers are currently maintained by the city of Crestwood and serve as necessary traffic-control devices within Doercrest Manor subdivision,” Ruzicka said.

Though Lindbergh Schools plans a locked gate, there has been “no mention of reflectors, warning signs or any other traffic-control devices for discouraging cut-through (traffic),” according to Ruzicka, and removing the current signage would cause a “tendency to generate excessive traffic (and) extraordinary potential for accidents or danger to public health and safety.”

The aforementioned conditions, according to Ruzicka, “match those exactly in Crestwood municipal code for requiring a conditional-use permit.”

“It would appear that safety measures were not considered in the plat consolidation approval, although we talked about them,” he said.

With the exception of Crestwood’s Planning and Zoning Commission, Ruzicka said he has received “very little guidance, feedback or consideration in regards to this project.”

“Given the fact that the residents of Doercrest Manor have repeatedly voiced safety concerns, it’s disheartening that we as residents, taxpayers and voters are simply dismissed and ignored …,” he said. “Each and every time these statements are entered in public record, they become a damming paper trail of evidence that will surely be used in future litigation.”

Johnston said because Ruzicka addressed his concerns to Crestwood, the city’s Board of Aldermen should respond.

“Our responsibility as a school district is to do what’s best for thousands of students who attend Long now and are going to attend Long in the future … and we know this is the way to do that,” she said.

Mayor Jeff Schlink told the Call he believes Ruzicka made a “reasonable request,” and Crestwood will “reach out to the school district” through either City Administrator Mark Sime or Public Works Director Mike Pratt to ensure those concerns are addressed.

Lindbergh Schools has not heard from Ruzicka since the original meetings with Doercrest residents earlier this year, according to Johnston, and “significant changes” were made to the plan based on those meetings. The original plan for the gate was to have traffic entering and exiting, but district officials changed it to be exit only, twice per day, for five buses.

“Since we’ve had those meetings, Mr. Ruzicka has not contacted the school district and has not addressed the Board of Education with any additional concerns,” Johnston said.

Though Ruzicka said the responsibility for safety “relies mostly on the backs of the Lindbergh School District,” every municipality, including St. Louis County, is responsible, she said.

The plan that is underway, according to Johnston, is “the best option for our entire community and definitely the best option for the safety of our kids.”