Kaneland High School is dealing with an unexpected challenge this fall: Part of the campus will be fenced off while three gas lines are replaced.
Kaneland school board members are miffed at the short notice given to the school district. And, they asked at a meeting Monday night, why does the work have to be done now, during the school year?
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The construction also has the Kaneland Youth Soccer Organization scrambling to find places to practice and play, after learning the fields it normally leases at the Maple Park school will be unavailable through mid-November.
TransCanada, owners of the interstate natural-gas transmission lines, told school officials Aug. 18, two days before school started, that it will be replacing three pipelines to the east of the high school. The district owns about 40 open acres there.
The work is scheduled to start as soon as Sept. 8. The area will be fenced off for 75 feet on either side of the worksite.
"We realize this is probably not the optimal time to be doing this," said Gretchen Krueger, spokesman for TransCanada.
Krueger said while doing a routine evaluation of the pipes during the summer, the company learned that more activity was taking place above ground than it thought. Besides the youth soccer, the high school marching band practices on the land, and Future Farmers of America club farms part of it.
Gas pipelines are classified in part based on what takes place above them, Krueger said. The more people or buildings above a pipe, the stronger it has to be by federal law, including having thicker walls, she said.
TransCanada then reduced the pressure of the gas flowing through the pipes. But it needs to increase the pressure for the winter heating season, Krueger said.
The pipes transport gas to Wisconsin.
Krueger was not sure how long the current pipes have been in place. ANR bought TransCanada in 2007, she said.
"Our top priority is the public's and (school) employees' safety," she said.
The pipe will be drained of gas during the work, Krueger said.
The school board was told about it Monday night.
School board member Tony Valente asked if the district could get a court injunction to stop the work, as he is worried it may be unsafe to do it while students are on the campus.
He and other board members asked why the work couldn't have been done earlier, or postponed until next summer.
They also asked that a TransCanada representative attend the board's Sept. 8 meeting to answer questions.
Julie-Ann Fuchs, the district's assistant superintendent for business services, said TransCanada will have 24-hour security at the site, and plans to work around the clock.
The youth soccer organization has 10 fields at the site. The first week of practice and games, through Sept. 6, will still be on the fields, organization officials said in a statement posted on its website and Facebook page. After that, some of the games and practices will be moved to a space behind the large dirt mound on the north side of the campus, according to a Facebook post late Wednesday afternoon.
The president could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Laura Widhalm, the school's FFA adviser, said she learned of the disruption Tuesday, and so did not have details yet about what the club is going to do.
Krueger said anyone with questions about the project should contact TransCanada's community relations department at (855) 895-8754 or firstname.lastname@example.org.