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Williamsport residents try to bus(t) depot plans

November 29, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WILLIAMSPORT - Williamsport residents told Washington County Public Schools officials what they thought of plans to convert an existing parking lot into a school bus parking lot during a meeting Tuesday.

Simply put: They don't want it.

Williamsport Mayor James G. McCleaf II said residents have made their feelings clear for months about the proposed lot, which would be across from the town's elementary school.

About 50 mostly frustrated Williamsport-area residents were at Tuesday's meeting.

The town's zoning administrator denied the project and said no paperwork was filed by the school system. Assistant Superintendent for School Operations Boyd Michael said officials will decide whether to appeal that decision with the town's board of zoning appeals.

"We believe we have grounds to appeal," he said.

The lot would accommodate 18 to 20 buses, and would house 13 regularly. A 6-foot fence would be built around the lot.

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Assistant to the Superintendent Mike Markoe said a lot of misinformation was spread about the parking lot. He said there are no plans to construct a building or set up a fueling station there, as some people heard.

Those at the meeting cited concerns about safety, traffic, aesthetics and property value as reasons the buses should not be parked across from the elementary school in the largely residential neighborhood.

Michael said the school system is paying $1,000 to rent space for parking the buses that would be parked on the existing lot across from the elementary school. The site at Williamsport was chosen because it has existing blacktop, electrical access and restroom access.

Officials said appropriate trees and shrubs would be planted on the north and west sides of the lot, and electrical outlets would be installed.

"The main bus lot (at the school system's central offices) looks like a junkyard," said Jeff Retherford, who lives on North Clifton Drive where Williamsport's schools are. "Why would this one be any different? How was this decision made?"

Markoe said the decision to park buses on the lot at the school was fiscally responsible and was not a safety risk for students. Officials said any impact on traffic would be minimal.

Residents at the meeting disagreed.

"It's already a very dangerous situation," said Darcy Munro, who has three children at Williamsport schools.

She said additional bus traffic would pose a safety concern for students who use the crosswalk in front of the planned bus lot.

She also said that the parking lot is often filled during football and baseball games. Officials said they monitored the parking lot for several days and saw only a few cars in it.

School officials said they hoped to work out an agreement with the town. Michael said officials would review the concerns shared at Tuesday's meeting and then make a decision about the parking lot.

Board of Education members Paul W. Bailey and Wayne D. Ridenour said the issue likely would come before the board with a recommendation by school system staff.

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