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Residents near dorms complain

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By David Giuliani

Marcia Henning’s house is next to the new Highlands University dorms that opened last month. And she, like her neighbors, are unhappy with the increased traffic and noise.

Her house is at Washington and Ninth streets, just across from the dorms, which have the capacity to house 276 students.

“Walking on this block of Washington is now extremely hazardous to pedestrians. I’ve almost been hit twice,” she said.

On the Ninth side of her house is a “dead end” sign along the northbound lane, but the street doesn’t end. Before the dorms were built, a gate was a block north of Henning’s house on Ninth. That gate kept traffic under control and protected the children at the Early Childhood Center, which is part of the East school district, Henning said.

Others agree that there is a problem.

“They haul down our street now. They’re trying to go to their class fast,” said Florence Baca, who lives a couple of doors down from Henning on Washington. “Wait until they all come in the afternoon.”

In fact, neighbors say that Highlands President Jim Fries pledged the school would put that gate back up once the dorms opened.

“I was at the City Council meeting where Dr. Fries, in conjunction with his staff and consultants, unequivocally stated that the gate absolutely would be put back in place,” resident Keith Kjelstrom, a nearby Eighth Street resident, said in a mass e-mail to neighbors.

“He did not say that the university would consider it; he did not say maybe; he said it was going back,” Kjelstrom said. “Please don’t tell me he wants to go back on that promise.”

Highlands spokesman Sean Weaver said the school has heard the residents’ concerns and is having the building contractor find the old gate and put it back up. He said the university would still allow emergency vehicles to have access.

Henning and others are also complaining about the noise from the dorms, especially from some of the rooms on the third floor on the north end. As she took a reporter down Ninth, someone from that area of the building shouted an obscenity.

“We have to rely on the university’s goodwill and campus (police),” she said.

On a recent night, Henning said she had to call campus police four times to get the noise to stop. Every time the officers left, the students would put their music back up again.

“I can’t imagine any student being able to study living next to this noise,” Henning said.

Weaver said the university’s police will take care of noise problems.