The Fayette County Board of Education made no commitment this week, but will work with the county on a plan that would allow golf cart access to the Starr’s Mill Complex that includes Peeples Elementary, Rising Starr Middle School, and Starr’s Mill High School.
As part of a summer internship with the county, local high school students Tessa Strickland (Starr’s Mill) and Khalil Coleman (Whitewater) developed an actionable plan for bringing carts to the complex. The plan included a speed limit reduction to 25 mph in the school zone along Redwine Road, construction of a new “safe zone” median for crossing at Redwine and Foreston Place, as well as some other enhanced safety measures.
Superintendent Dr. Jody Barrow said student safety was the chief concern for the board, but didn’t think there was any general objection to having students cart to school, as is already commonly done at McIntosh High. Barrow said the board would like to see the county finalize its plans for extending the existing cart path down Redwine and up to the school complex before the school district commits to anything.
“I don’t think there’s anybody that’s philosophically opposed to [the idea],” Barrow said, “but I don’t know that the board wants to invest anything on the front end until we see the other pieces come to fruition.”
County Commission Chairman Steve Brown said the county could extend the necessary 2,500 feet of path down Redwine “pretty quick,” perhaps as early as spring.
Brown also said it would be possible to obtain funds through a federal Safe Routes to School program. He said the county had previously obtained around $2 million in a matching grant to help pay for the already completed extension of the cart path on Redwine.
Brown also explained that the county has been working with the municipalities to get “on the same page with our paths” and establish “major golf cart corridors” to focus on expanding.
Of note, Peachtree City recently declined to participate in the county’s proposal to recognize cart licenses across jurisdictional lines. Peachtree City Manager Jim Pennington cited the potential loss of revenue to the city, which currently brings in around $50,000 from annual cart fees paid by residents in the unincorporated county. Brown said previously that the city’s refusal to honor cart permits across lines would likely mean the county will level a similar $60 annual fee to Peachtree City residents that want to use paths in the unincorporated county. This would likely impact most of the drivers that would use the proposed cart path to the Starr’s Mill complex as those drivers are expected to largely be Peachtree City residents coming across onto county paths.
Board member Leonard Presberg said he’d gotten “a lot of e-mails about this,” and joked that “a lot of people want to drive their carts to Starr’s Mill yesterday.”
Brown said the “only point” remaining was for the school board to identify a location for golf cart parking at the complex, so that planning for the path can be finalized.
Presberg said he felt “there’s a worry if we go in and put in our piece of this infrastructure, we’re creating an incentive for people to do something that’s not safe to do yet. I see our piece as the last piece.”
Barrow seemed to agree that he wanted to see the county’s end of the work done before the school district commits to anything. He said the work of establishing a parking location would likely not take very long based on his conversations with staff, estimating “2 to 3 weeks.”
It was also noted that students and parents should be polled as to their interest so that the district can have a better idea of how many carts to plan for.