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Sioux City church parking to dwindle due to elementary school project

April 21, 2018 GMT

SIOUX CITY -- The number of off-street parking spots adjacent to First United Methodist Church will drop in the near future, as the church sells one of its two parking lots for construction of a new Hunt Elementary School nearby.

School Board members and district administrators said they will work closely with the church to try to soften the impact of losing the lot until the new school opens in 2022. However, there are some concerns, church Finance Committee Chairwoman Ellen Dickey told school board members in March.

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School board member Mike McTaggart said he hopes no church members see the parking in upcoming months as a hassle and stop attending weekly services and other church activities. Dickey said with the lost parking for four years, the number of church-goers could drop, which could hamper church revenues.

“We have been at 1915 (Nebraska St.) for more than 100 years,” Dickey said. “Four years is a very long time for our congregation.”

During a March board meeting, church membership was cited at 650, with about 200 attending on a typical Sunday.

The church has two Sunday services, and there are two lots at the church. The southeast lot that will be lost has about 25 spaces, while a lot to the north has a higher number of spaces.

The current Hunt school at 615 20th St. dates to 1906, making it by far the oldest in the public school system.

The existing school will be demolished after students use the building for one last academic year through May 2019. The new school will be built just to the south of the current structure.

For the project, the school district has purchased about 11 properties, paying in a general range of $120,000 to $170,000 each. Some homes will be moved or demolished. Among the acquisitions are two parcels owned by First United Methodist.

There will also be some impact in the neighborhood once construction is in full swing. The Rev. Roger Madden, pastor of First United Methodist, asked school officials to seek creative ways to work with the selected contractor to lessen any potential impacts.

On March 26, school officials revealed a $1.4 million plan to design and carry out site improvements and reconstruct utilities in the adjacent streets. District Director of Operations and Maintenance Brian Fahrendholz also said it will cost an estimated $454,000 to install geothermal wells on the new school grounds.

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The school board on April 9 approved a lease agreement between the district and the church for parking at the south end of the new Hunt school site, at the cost of $1 for 20 years. The lease can be renewed for up to six more 20-year terms. Church officials said they like the final arrangement.

Fahrendholz said the agreement enables people using the church to park in the school parking lot in off-school hours once it’s constructed.

“We want to continue that good relationship with them,” Fahrendholz said, echoing the sentiment of school board members.

Church officials have explained the parking changes, and have a spot devoted on the First United Methodist website to share details for people.

“These terms do not include everything which the Church would like (most specifically the loss of parking during construction), but they do represent some significant concessions on the part of the School District,” the website explainer says.

McTaggart said there could be challenges on some days in the future.

“I really hope that we will be able to work with the church to make sure they have access,” he said. “We want to be a good neighbor.”