Trimble County government leaders upset with school district's decision to declare two county roads unsafe for school bus travel; superintendent: decision based on "keeping our students safe"

Trimble Banner, Bedford, Oct. 26, 2017

2 county roads deemed unsafe for bus travel

Fiscal Court takes issue with schools
By DAVE TAYLOR

A decision by the Trimble County Public Schools to classify two local roads as unsafe and cease bus transportation services on those roads prompted a discussion during the Oct. 16 meeting of Trimble County Fiscal Court. The two roads involved are Riverview Drive and South Spillman Lane.

Trimble County JudgeExecutive Jerry Powell said he learned of the situation because his grandson lives on Riverview Drive, one of the roads in question. Riverview Drive is a City of Milton street, Powell said. The road turns off U.S. 421N near the Milton Fire House, runs behind the fire department and along the crest of the hill east toward Moffett Cemetery.

Powell said the school system cited four reasons for discontinuing those bus routes:

●When pulling out of Riverview Drive onto U.S. 421N the bus has to cross the center line.

●At the first curve there are trees that are blocking the view.

●At another curve, which is a 90-degree turn, the bus driver has to pull forward, then back up to be able to make the turn.

●At the end of the road on the bus turnaround there is a 50-foot part of the subdivision plat and the bus is getting on private property to make the turn around.

“Any number of reasons could determine a road unsafe,” Trimble County Superintendent of Schools Steve Miracle said earlier this week. “Visibility issues, width of the road, turn around at the end of the road and issues relating to the condition of the road itself. In the case of a particular road it is many of these issues along with where it comes out on the main road being extremely narrow. We make the decision on any road based upon keeping our students safe.”

“I’ve been down there numerous times,” Powell said of Riverview Drive. “I know they’ve been going down there over the last three years prior to this year because my grandson has been on it.”

With regard to the turnaround at the end of the road, Powell said, “They’ve got a 50-foot circle back there to turn around in. The school created the problem when they started running 80- and 84-passenger buses on those county roads. I volunteered to take any of them that wanted to go, I went to a school board meeting trying to talk to them which fell on deaf ears. I named two roads—that if they thought those were bad—go down Logan Road or Kidwell Pike. Every county road in the county would have problems. There’s not one road—even the state roads, like Peck Pike down at Milton, if they were going to turn right and come back toward Bedford unless they get over in the left-hand lane, which they shouldn’t be in that bus is going to go over the center line.”

Powell said he was told there are trees blocking a driver’s view on Riverview Drive, but disputed that claim. “There’s not any,” he said. “What I think has happened, they can’t get bus drivers they want to shorten the routes and eliminate, since my grandson is the only one that rides the bus on that road. So we’re taking him to school.”

Powell said the TCPS had offered to pick up the grandson on U.S. 421N near the top of Milton Hill. “About 50 feet before you get to the fire department he was going to have to cross the road there and get on the bus. They don’t seem to think stopping there where there’s a curve, and there’s not a lot of room between the back of the bus and that curve coming up, they thought that was okay.”

Powell said he learned about the South Spillman Lane situation after a resident called the county highway barn and spoke with county road supervisor Eddy Callis. The resident said she lives on past Richmond Road on South Spillman.

“They called her and said they weren’t going to come down her road,” Powell said. “She has custody of her nephew. The bus had been going down there. She said the reason they gave her, and I’m basing this on what she told me, was the bus has to turn around on private property. Ninety percent of the bus turnarounds in the county is private property. Very few are deeded rights-ofway. So she has to take her nephew up to Richmond Road to catch the bus.”

Powell said the decision by TCPS to eliminate the routes is “they have devaluated everybody’s property on the road. If you’re going to sell your house you’ve got to tell potential buyers that the school bus don’t come back that road. If they’ve got children they’re probably not going to buy the house. I see that as an issue and I told them they have an obligation to notify those property owners.”

Powell said Terry Willis owns a subdivision on Riverview Drive with about 62 acres left there that over time will be divided into at least one-acre lots. “If I’ve done my figures right that would be $1,250,000 at $25,000 a lot, they’re going to have a difficult time selling the lots if they have to say the bus is not going to come down there to pick up kids,” Powell said. “It looks to me like they would have to ask permission and show cause to us that road is unsafe.”

Powell said he attended a recent meeting of the Trimble County Board of Education and was told that the transportation person in the state education department at Frankfort said the road was unsafe, “but that person never came down here. They took the local people’s word was my understanding. I’ve got a call into the guy that’s over transportation at the department of education but he hasn’t called back.”

“We do seek guidance from the state level to be sure that we are making the appropriate decision,” Miracle countered. “In the case of the roads we discontinued this year we did so at the advisement of the state department.”

Trimble County Attorney Crystal Heinz said her study of the statutes regarding school transportation issues has revealed that “In regards to the school deeming a county road as being unsafe, they have that authority to do so. I think the school does have that power, unfortunately, to declare roads unsafe. There are pages and pages of regulations with regards to school buses and public schools. However, I do think that they have the obligation and duty to the members of the community to have the appropriate people to come and say this is, in fact, unsafe. I don’t feel that it should be the board of education or somebody in our community, the bus drivers to say it’s unsafe.

“Perhaps,” Heinz continued, “since that’s such a hectic area in the morning, we could request signs or caution lights. I’m disheartened to hear” (they deemed Riverview Drive unsafe). “That’s one of the cleanest, easiest roads in our county. There are a lot more worse than that. They need to have the proper people come down and actually declare that it to be unsafe and not off word of mouth. If they were to deem it unsafe I would think it would have to be a pretty hectic criteria. They should give plenty of reasons why instead of a local school official saying it’s unsafe. I’m not finished researching.”

“It aggravates me that one or two people can make a decision that can affect a lot of people on the roads, especially the value of the property,” Powell said. “It definitely devalues the property if they say they’re not going to come down there for whatever reason.”

Miracle said that in a rural county like Trimble “there are going to be concerns from time to time with the safety of roads. As already stated we make any decisions regarding bus routes based upon student safety and that alone. It may be inconvenient to adults, but we are not going to put students at risk to accommodate an adult schedule.”

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