SEBRING - A chain-link fence stretches across the circle driveway in front of Fred Wild Elementary, where parents used to drop off their children.
However, the school board fenced the entire campus for safety. Now, the only entry point from Sebring Parkway is to turn east onto Youth Care Lane, and drive in from the rear of the school.
That's why County Engineer Ramon Gavarrete wants to widen both Sebring Parkway and Youth Care Lane for turn lanes.
"From 7:15 a.m. to 7:30, there are quite a few parents who drop off their kids," said school district transportation director David Solomon. "Right now, there is no turn lane, per se."
Gavarrete has been negotiating for eight years to buy enough frontage from Yarbrough Tire, Highlands Health and Racquet Club and an undeveloped parcel between the two businesses.
The estimated cost: from $502,000 to $615,000, depending on which of the three options the county commissioners pick.
At most, the county is trying to purchase 6,000 square feet, about the size of a residential lot. Why does it cost so much?
- Option A would include 2,076 square feet of Sebring Parkway footage from Yarbrough.
- "That would provide enough area for a minimal 85-foot long northbound right-turn lane at Youth Care Lane," Gavarrete said. It's enough space along Sebring Parkway to queue six to eight northbound cars. Cost: $502,000.
- Option B would buy an additional 799 square feet from Parcel 31, the blank land, for an extra $14,000, and another 245 square feet from Yarbrough at the same price. That would extend the turn lane to 190 feet, enough for twice as many cars. Cost: $516,000.
- Option C: 6,087 square feet would be needed from Yarbrough, 2,854 from the vacant lot, and 3,298 from the racquet club. This would provide a 215-foot long turn lane. The price would be the same from Yarbrough and the vacant lot, but $99,000 for the racquet club frontage.
Documents provided Nov. 19 to the Highlands County commissioners broke down the $501,881 estimate on the Yarbrough site alone: $29,150 for a survey, site planning, engineering, permitting, and construction phase services; $148,130 for clearing, demolition, earthwork, storm drainage, a base under the asphalt, traffic separators, pavement markings, grading, and overlaying the existing asphalt; $9,675 for a used oil storage building with concrete containment and a metal roof; $1,320 for pedestal at the base of the utility pole and remove overhead wire; $5,295 to install 165 feet of new electrical service; $30,950 for landscaping design and installation, labor, irrigation and a new well and pump; $75,649 for engineering, permitting, removal of existing signs and installation of new signs; $22,900 to appraise the land in 2006; $24,400 to appraise the land in 2007; $26,790 to Morganstern Phifer & Messina, certified public accounting firm in Tampa; $27,753 to Tipton Associates architecture and planning in Baton Rouge, La.; $17,636 to Rahenkamp Design Group eminent domain, landscape architecture, land use planning and litigation in Tampa; and $84,140 to Christman Law in Winter Haven.
"I'm of the opinion that all these costs, they're okay, but to sign off on that today?" Commission Vice Chair Ron Handley balked. "The Yarbroughs, they are reasonable people. They wanted to get this resolved without getting an attorney. We're all sick of paying attorney fees. And the county is just as responsible for not following up as the Yarbroughs."
"I agree," Commission Chair Greg Harris said. "Danny (Yarbrough) and I have been talking about this for some time. Too long. What's the best way, and the quickest way, to do this?"
The main issue, Gavarrete said, is at the intersection of Youth Care with Sebring Parkway, where Yarbrough's front driveway is located.
The board discussed the issue last year, and Gavarrete drew plans to build a sidewalk on the west side of the parkway, parallel with the railroad tracks.
"The other thing the commission asked to do was eliminate the dual left turn lane for entrances to businesses," Gavarrete said. "Without additional right of way, you can construct four lanes, but not a right turn lane into Youth Care Lane, which is somewhat problematic...
"So the issue is, in order to accommodate a right turn onto Youth Care Lane," Gavarrete said, "that (Yarbrough) driveway would have to be closed."
Danny Yarbrough said he pointed out to Handley on Monday that the new driveway path would take traffic over the septic tank.
"Well, not by this map," Yarbrough quoted Handley. That's how they found out they were working with three different maps. Handley said Yarbrough's map was different than Gavarrete's map by 30 feet.
"Can we get on the same page?" Yarbrough asked.
Yarbrough and Gavarrete agreed to meet this week, then return to the county commission.