Proposed school bus lot is focus of of Tuesday meeting

November 27, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WILLIAMSPORT - Officials anticipate they will proceed with plans to use an existing parking lot in Williamsport for school bus parking, said Boyd Michael, assistant superintendent for school operations.

An informational meeting about the planned lot will be Tuesday evening at Williamsport Elementary School. School officials said they scheduled the meeting to provide accurate and updated information about their plans for the lot, which is across from the elementary school.

School officials began to fence in the lot in June, but stopped shortly after Williamsport residents spoke out against the project.

Michael said the lot will accommodate 18 to 20 buses, and officials believe about 13 buses will be in the lot regularly.


"There may be days when it's as high as 17," he said.

The lot will have one entrance and be enclosed by a 6-foot chain-link fence.

"We began this project during the summer, but after several community member inquiries, we recognized that we had failed to effectively communicate to the Williamsport community," he said.

Tuesday's meeting largely will be an effort to stop rumors and misinformation about the lot.

"We anticipate, based on research and the best use of taxpayer dollars, that we will proceed with the project," Michael said.

Williamsport Mayor James G. McCleaf II said it might not be that easy for the school system to continue with the bus lot. Because using an overflow parking lot for school bus parking would be a change in the lot's purpose, school officials must get the project approved by the town's planning and zoning board, he said.

Based on what he knows, McCleaf said the bus lot would not be approved. A decision then could be made by the town's zoning appeals board.

Michael said he does not believe a permit is required for the lot to be used for bus parking.

Tearza Knode served as president of Williamsport Elementary School's PTA for about one year until June, when she resigned. Knode said the rear of her home would face the proposed bus lot, and she didn't want the PTA to appear to have any bias against the project.

Knode, who is still a PTA member, said the group voted last week to oppose the bus lot.

She said the PTA's main concern is the safety of the students, especially those who walk to school and use a crosswalk near what would be the bus lot's entrance.

Knode also said the bus lot would increase traffic in the neighborhood, would take away valuable parking space at the school and also would be an eyesore for the neighborhood.

Michael said it was his hope that Tuesday's informational meeting would be a time to answer any questions and also put some worries about the lot to rest.

"I'm hearing all sorts of wild rumors," he said. "People thought we were building a building, an 8-to-10-foot fence with wire and fueling stations there. I'm not sure how that happened."

Michael and town officials agreed that an informational meeting should have been held before work began in June.

Michael said safety is a primary concern for the school system, and officials believe there are no safety issues concerning the proposed bus lot.

"We wouldn't do anything that would compromise the safety of students," he said.

Michael said the school system would comply with any expectations the town had.

"It has to go through the proper procedures," McCleaf said. "Our citizens ... if they want to add a garage or anything, they have to go through (a procedure), and the Board of Education will certainly have to do the same."

Know more 30 seconds

The issue: Washington County Public Schools officials want to enclose an existing parking lot near Williamsport Elementary School and use it as a school bus parking lot. Williamsport residents voiced concerned about the project several months ago, and it was put on hold.

What's new: School officials are holding a public meeting on the bus lot Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the Williamsport Elementary School cafeteria.

What's next: A decision will be made on whether to convert the parking lot into a bus parking lot. School officials say it's all but certain, while town officials say the school system needs approval from the town's planning and zoning board.

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