Each time it rains the residents of the West Parkview neighborhood pace their floors, and begin a vigil that includes walking to their windows to check on rising of water in their neighborhood; it’s a vigil that continues day and night until the threat passes.
The fear of flooding is real to them because their homes have been inundated with flood waters before. They watched the area around Wossman high become a river; they remember the dead body floating on water that didn’t recede for days.
They get anxious and nervous when it rains hard. Many are afraid.
The Monroe City School Board’s decision to build a new school adjacent to Wossman High School has added to their fears; because the new school will increase the likelihood of flooding for hundreds of homeowners in the area.
No matter how they tried to plead with board members not to endanger their homes, the school board led by Rev. Rodney McFarland, ignored them and approved its location without meeting with the homeowners or considering how the board’s action would impact them. There were no meetings or public comments before the decision. It was done in an “in your face” manner that disheartened the residents.
These homeowners are professional men and women who understand the importance of education and are normally supportive of initiatives to improve school facilities and reforms. They voted for taxes to build and improve school facilities, raise teacher pay and provide supplies and materials. However, the new proposal will flood their homes and harm their families; they drew a line in the sand,
They organized themselves and purchased copies of plans and reports. They met with architects and engineers and came away with one conclusion, the new school would be a beautiful, state of the art facility that would be protected from high water, but with no flood or traffic protections for their homes.
The reports could almost guarantee that the new school would survive normal high water situations, but not one report could guarantee that their homes would not be adversely impacted by normal high water situations once the school is built.
The homeowners met with board members in the Wossman Library last year and begged them to choose another site. They left hopeful that the location issue would be revisited because one Board member, Bill Willson, promised them privately that it made better sense to rebuild MLK on its present site which will not flood the neighborhood and cost millions less.
Willson was elected president and homeowners, were confident that he would honor his promise. However, he never met with residents as promised or revisited the location issue. Despite his words of comfort and reassurance; Willson misled them. He said later that his words were not promises but mere speculation or conjecture on his part. It was a nice way of explaining how he lied to them.
Incensed, homeowners went to the ballot box. They targeted every candidate that favored flooding their homes. The faces on the board changed, but they missed one by seven votes. B. J. Johnson slipped back in and continues to ignore them. One of their leaders, Betty Cooper, was elected. All three newly elected board members want to help the homeowners, the others seem not to care.
In desperation, they hired an attorney and have filed suit in district court to stop the project before the concrete is laid so they can plead, beg, and grovel at the feet of the board one more time, in a desperate fight to save their families.
Their plea is simply: 1) stop the present project, 2) build the new school on its present site, 3) save millions of dollars even counting what has already been spent, 4) No homes would be flooded and everybody’s happy.
On Sundays in their churches, all of the board members express their love for fairness, cooperation and compassion. They begin their board meetings with prayers for guidance in their decision making.
Their Sunday words of faith and their board meeting prayers for peace, cooperation and compassion are proving to be empty words, at least to homeowners of West Parkview.