Saturday, February 16, 2013
Falling Branch Elementary will have police officer while officials develop bus stop plan
The Christiansburg Town Council issued a directive after a special meeting Friday.
Christiansburg Town Council members want to keep adult bus travelers separated from Falling Branch Elementary School.
Spurred by reports that bus passengers sometimes wander into the school, located adjacent to the state-owned park and ride lot that serves as a stop for Megabus, Blacksburg Transit and the SmartWay bus, the council called a special meeting Friday. Council members directed Police Chief Mark Sisson to assign an officer to the elementary school during school hours for three weeks beginning Tuesday, town spokeswoman Becky Wilburn said after the meeting.
Mayor Richard Ballengee said after the meeting that the council wanted to act because parents of Falling Branch students — including a council member — are upset. He said that there has been no criminal activity involved in the bus riders' visits to the school, but "there is a potential for problems when you have people you don't know coming to the school."
"I think it's a nuisance more than anything else," Ballengee said.
Christiansburg officials will use the next three weeks to consult other agencies involved with transportation and the schools, and examine possible other measures, Wilburn said.
Other steps the Christiansburg council plans include:
>> Ballengee and Town Manager Barry Helms want to call a meeting with representatives from Montgomery County's Board of Supervisors, School Board, the Metropolitan Planning Agency, Virginia Department of Transportation and Falling Branch school.
>> The council will write to the transit companies that use the park and ride lot, located at Interstate 81's Exit 118A, and to the supervisors, school board and VDOT and ask what they can do to tell riders not to trespass on school property, or what other plans they have to address the situation.
>> The town will put up an additional sign telling people not to trespass on school property.
Wilburn said that Rob Cary, the highway department's Salem District administrator, said the state is also planning new signs as part of a response to the situation. VDOT could not be contacted late Friday.
School officials said last week that about two to five times per month, passengers either waiting for or just dropped off by Megabus' runs to Washington, D.C., or Knoxville, Tenn., walk to Falling Branch Elementary School hoping to find a bathroom, charge cellphones or get a drink of water. Principal Julie Vanidestine said that some passengers become belligerent when they are told to leave, but that there has never been an incident in which students or staff were physically threatened.
Mike Alvich, a spokesman for Megabus parent company Coach USA, said this week that Megabus will add a reminder to emailed confirmations of ticket purchases that passengers should stay at the park and ride lot to await buses, and should use bathroom facilities on the buses, not venture to neighboring properties.
In the past two years, the state highway department has added a bus shelter to the park and ride lot and a portable toilet.