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Bester lot OK'd

some say not soon enough

May 22, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Some Bester Elementary School parents say the Washington County Board of Education's Tuesday consensus to build an extra parking lot at the school next summer would help ease traffic congestion at the school, but say they wish the project could be completed sooner.

The School Board during a two-hour transportation work session Tuesday afternoon agreed to build a 24-space parking lot during the summer of 2004. Plans are to build the lot north of the school on land that is now unused.

The School Board had discussed building the lot this summer in place of three projects already slated, but agreed those projects were more of a safety concern than the parking lot at Bester, which it saw more as a matter of inconvenience.

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Dennis McGee, Washington County Public School's director of facilities management, said although the new lot will have 24 spaces, about 30 cars could park comfortably in the lot and along a bordering sidewalk.

"It should certainly address many of the concerns," he said.

Parent Dodie Green, 32, who has been protesting traffic conditions at Bester, said Wednesday the lot won't be enough.

"I've sat through three School Boards to discuss this issue," she said. "I guess I'll have to sit through several more."

Parent Octavia Fowlkes, 26, said she'll wait a year for the parking lot. "It would help out a lot," she said.

McGee said the project will cost about $60,000, but said he will have to factor in the cost of things like storm water management.

He said he hopes to start the bidding process on the project next winter.

Some parents said Wednesday that next summer isn't soon enough.

"It's a waste of time. It's a waste of money. The problem is now and they need to do something now," said parent Roben Hall, 48.

The School Board has discussed some plans to alleviate the congestion in the meantime. Chris Carter, the school system's director of transportation, is checking into whether a system could be developed under which parents who have children who don't ride the bus could apply to send their children on one of the two school buses that has a few empty seats.

Carter said one of the buses generally has 30 to 35 empty seats. The other school bus, which seats 48, is at near capacity, he said.

Carter said it would be difficult to set up such a system because when the bus has empty seats it might mean that students eligible to be aboard the bus have found other ways home.

About 400 of 500 students who attend Bester either walk or are driven to and from school by their parents.

Carter said Bester Elementary is one of seven schools in which students living within one mile of the school are considered walkers. Other schools are exempted from the rule because their routes to school have limited crosswalks and sidewalks and are in areas with faster traffic.

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