Riverton residents are angry, believing that their children's safety is jeopardized by political interests.
The safety of Riverton elementary students was the hot topic during the Riverton Community Council meeting, held at City Hall Monday night. Participants talked about an open irrigation canal near the school.Many complaints focused on a 6-foot fence raised on top of a 2-foot concrete base. It replaced a stiff wooden fence that was torn down for the school's construction.
"If any child can get into the canal (which was also called a ditch), the fence is not adequate," said Riverton Elementary parent representative Debi Johanson. "In the last months, we have taken four kids down from the fence and three boys out of the canal. Anytime a child can get into the ditch, the fence is not adequate. In a sense, the school put our children into harm's way."
"If it can happen, it will," said Johansen's husband, Rob, who will have three children attending Riverton Elementary in the fall. "It's only a matter of time."
Wyoma Darington said she was the only Planning Commission member who voted down the school plan presented to the commission four years ago.
"The Planning Commission did everything we could," Darington said. "I walked the area and thought that it was not a good place for a school. I voted against it and asked the (Jordan) school district to `pipe' the ditch. They said no because it wasn't their property."
Instead, the city raised the "easy-to-climb" chain link fence to keep children out, said Darington.
When the plan for the school was presented to the City Council, it was the best location at the time, said Mayor Sandra Lloyd.
"It came down to this best choice with the exception of the ditch," she said. "We (the City Council) were all aware of the need to pipe the ditch. The school board (members) said they'd do it."
But that was not the case. And once the school's construction began, the city's hands were tied from pursuing the piping.
"We, as a city, can do all we can do to the strictest limit by what ordinances we have to go by," said Lloyd. "But when we go up against the Jordan School District, we don't have that kind of authority."
The ditch, which is located near the school's south end, has carried water to agriculture lands for the past 80 years. The cost of piping it ranges from $30,000 to $40,000. And those who own the ditch and rights to the water can't afford to pipe it themselves.
"Something needs to be done," said Bill Meyers, who uses the water for his land. "I, among others, share the chore of cleaning out the ditch every few months. And 90 percent of the things we clear out of it were put in by kids. It is a dangerous place."
But instead of laying all the blame on the school district, Meyers focused on the family's part of the situation.
"Parents and kids must hold responsibility as well as the school board," he said. "Parents need to teach their children to respect the canal, and know it can be dan-ger-ous."
The canal wasn't the only thing on parents' minds Monday night. The continued rapid population growth, development and increasing traffic also are concerns.
The issue of whether Rosemont and Riverton elementary schools are in an area so hazardous that busing would be essential was reviewed as well as the idea of constructing walls in Rosemont, which is an open-classroom school.
Rep. Mont Evans, R-Riverton, who sat in the community meeting, said it might be a good idea to review these issues at the Legislature.