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Williamsport residents, officials unhappy about bus depot

June 19, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

WILLIAMSPORT

A proposed bus depot that angered some Williamsport residents has been put on hold, and Washington County Public Schools officials said they were searching for another place to park.

"We've heard the displeasure and the reasons that were listed by the group, and we're trying to look at our options and reconsider," Facilities Management Director Rodney Turnbough said.

The revelation that the school system planned to fence off an area in front of Williamsport Elementary School for permanent bus parking prompted PTA President Tearza Knode to send out a flurry of e-mails in opposition. According to a story in The Herald-Mail, the Town Council also spoke out against the project.

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Knode said she was worried a bus depot would worsen traffic around the school complex and create a safety hazard for children. She said the school system never informed her of its plans, and she has since quit her post out of frustration about the project.

"I think if someone had surveyed the actual traffic in front of the school, they would be astounded," Knode said Sunday.

The fencing would have been 6 feet tall, said Boyd Michael, who officially takes over as assistant superintendent of operations July 1.

A fact sheet about the project indicates the school system intended to park at least 18 school buses at the Williamsport complex.

Michael said he believed the school system was within its rights when its contractors planted poles for the enclosure, but Town Clerk James Castle said last week he thought the school system might have to seek special permission to go ahead with the project.

"It is quite uncanny that they thought they would put something of that magnitude in that area," said Assistant Mayor Monty R. Jones. "It just won't work. There's just not room for it."

One Washington County Board of Education member said Sunday he believed poor communication contributed to hard feelings about the fencing.

"We were aware of a project, and this is our fault. We didn't look at the details," Wayne D. Ridenour said.

Thursday afternoon, fence posts poked out of fresh spots of concrete in a rectangular area in front of the school. Turnbough said last week that the school system's contractors were working on other scheduled projects as they awaited word on whether the Williamsport depot would be nixed.

According to the fact sheet, the construction of a bus depot at an area outside a school complex would cost $138,000.

Neither Turnbough nor Michael would say how much money the project has cost so far.

As the mother of a first-grader and fourth-grader who walk to school, Knode said she is glad the fencing plans have hit a wall.

"I just hope the board isn't waiting until everything quiets down and cools off, and then they move about it in a sly way," Knode said.

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