tampabay.com

Board seeks more facts on school bus depot

By Thomas C. Tobin, Times Staff Writer
Published February 26, 2008


LARGO - Pinellas School Board members said Monday they need more information before approving a land swap that would clear the way for a new bus compound on 25 acres of public property near Countryside High School.

Board members raised questions about the proposed swap with the city of Clearwater, the environmental impact of a bus compound and whether the district even needs the new facility. They cited enrollment declines and said a new system of "close-to-home" schools would likely reduce the need for bus rides.

Board chairwoman Nancy Bostock said the facility was necessary but the board needs better information on the cost, the district's future busing needs and Clearwater's plans for land surrounding the compound

The site is east of McMullen-Booth Road and north of State Road 580. The compound would hold up to 300 buses.

Jim Miller, the district's real estate director, detailed plans for landscaped buffers between the compound and two nearby subdivisions, Briar Creek and Country Villas.

He also told the board of plans to direct outdoor lighting downward and said the site would be configured so buses would not need to back up in the mornings, triggering loud beeping noises.

Miller proposed a timetable to approve the deal by April or May, but board members urged a slowdown.

"I, for one, will not be rushed into a decision," board member Linda Lerner said.

Attending the afternoon workshop were several residents of Briar Creek and Country Villas, who object to the compound.

"I'm elated the (board) had so many questions," said Briar Creek resident Sharon Philyaw, who has led the opposition effort. "I'm happy to hear their doubts."