The dark street where a Post Falls Middle School student was killed on his way home from class Monday evening is scheduled to get street lights in the spring.
Seltice Way, the scene of a hit-and-run accident that left 13-year-old Nicholas Scherling dead, is part of an urban renewal district - an area the city has legally determined is deteriorating or blighted.
The city has been using a technique called tax increment financing to raise money for improvements there, including lighting, curbs and sidewalks.
The urban renewal district includes the area along Seltice Way from Pleasant View Road to the railroad crossing just west of Spokane Street.
“Long before this happened, we recognized the concern,” City Administrator Jim Hammond said.
But the streets around the nearby school are not part of the urban renewal district and therefore are not necessarily scheduled to get street lights.
Parents of middle school students have said the area where Scherling was walking and the streets near the school he was leaving all need better lighting or at least sidewalks.
Consultants whom the urban renewal agency hired will present their plan for improvements sometime this winter.
“Roughly, we (the agency) have about $1.6 million right now for improvements along West Seltice,” said Jerry Basler, the urban planner. “The underlying thing on West Seltice is these were already planned. It’s not necessarily a reaction to what happened.”
Parents have complained that it’s hard to see students walking near the school once the second shift of students finishes class at 5:48 p.m. The middle school sends its students to class in two shifts to ease crowding.
Mayor Gus Johnson said he plans to investigate lighting around the school.
“What I’m going to be doing this weekend Saturday and Sunday is drive around that area in the evening and see how many lights we have around there,” he said.
He vows to bring up the issue to the City Council if he discovers lighting insufficient to protect the students.
“I think we’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got,” he said. “I think we’re losing sight of who’s responsible for this, and that’s the person who chose to sit in a tavern for an hour and a half and then decided to get behind the wheel of that car.”
Connie Bickley, 54, has been charged with vehicular manslaughter in Scherling’s death and with leaving the scene of the accident.
Brentt Ramharter, the former city finance director, had been working on a financial proposal for improving the city’s lighting before he left for another job, said Bill Madigan, the public works director. The city has begun looking for a replacement for Ramharter, putting Ramharter’s lighting project on hold, he said.
Efforts to improve the lighting around the school may involve working with Washington Water Power, the schools, parents, community members, city staff and the public safety commission to determine where the city needs more lights, Madigan said.