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The bus stops here

Relocated shelter won’t serve students, while traffic hazard increases at current location

The colourful school bus shelter (far right) is located about 60 feet away from where the bus actually stops. – © René J. Roy / Wreckhouse Press

By Jaymie L. White

Special to Wreckhouse Press Inc.

PORT AUX BASQUES – One of the most important issues for a parent is the health and safety of their child, and a one bus stop is leaving some parents worried. Ashley White has one child currently using the bus stop located at 34 Main Street, the old Gateway taxi stand, but she will have a second child who will also be using it in September.

“It’s a busy spot anyway, but now with the hamburger takeout, it’s busier. Never mind that the traffic is going to be crazy backing in and out, I’m scared a child is going to get run down, but also, from my understanding, the Town moved the bus shelter because the woman who owns the restaurant didn’t want it there because, to my understanding, she was also concerned that a child would get hurt. So the Town moved the bus shelter next to the bookstore. Then we got an email from the school saying even though the bus shelter is there, that’s not where the bus stop will be. We have to use the old taxi stand.”

White said the decision on behalf of the school board doesn’t make any sense.

“The kids don’t have a bus shelter to get in when the weather is not fit, and it’s always windy in Port Aux Basques. Knowing they can’t even wait around the bus shelter, they’re just stuck out there. So my concern is that a kid will get run down with people leaving the parking lot a lot more now than when the taxi stand was there.”

White said another glaring issue with the location of the bus stop is the lack of parking for parents waiting to pick up their children, even with other parking lots nearby.

“The BMO is always busy. Shoppers is always busy. We can’t take away from the new owner’s parking lot for her restaurant and I understand that, so where do you park? So we’ve got nowhere to park to wait. There’s no shelter for the kids to get in when it’s raining, and it’s just a busy, busy traffic zone as far as I’m concerned. There’s a lot going on with that bus stop.”

White has contacted other parents who have all written to the school board, but the majority of parents didn’t receive a reply.

Rose Hautamaki, owner of Rosie’s Burger Bar, said she attempted to address the bus shelter issue before purchasing the property, but was told by the Town that she needed to come into possession before anything could be done.

“So the day I took possession of it, I called them back and said I wanted the bus stop removed. They came about a week later and took the shelter away, and then I got an email from the Town saying they removed the bus stop but that the school board is refusing to remove it as an actual stop. And I said that is so dangerous with people coming in and out of here. It is on my list to contact the school board. I haven’t gotten that far yet.”

Hautamaki said she did what she could do to lessen the danger to the kids waiting, and the result is not what she hoped for.

“I was proactive before I even opened the business. I’ve driven a school bus. I’ve had kids in school and as soon as I saw people waiting, I thought this is not a good thing. I took the proactive approach. I got the shelter moved, but then I got the email from the Town saying the school board is refusing to move the stop.”

Hautamaki said that if someone gets hurt the liability will fall onto her shoulders because she is the owner of the property, and with the dangerous driving that takes place in the area, she is concerned something will happen.

“The traffic starts getting really busy around here – people popping in and out getting their lunch – and I know when I come here myself with an empty parking lot, I back in, because if you don’t back in you’re not getting out. That’s how busy it is,” said Hautamaki. “I saw a bus stop here the other day. The bus driver honked his horn because the cars kept going. Even with the stop sign out, the cars just kept going. That’s why I was proactive on it and this is where I got.”

Port Aux Basques Town Manager Leon MacIsaac is aware that new property owners wanted the bus shelter moved due to liability concerns.

“The new location was located up the street on property the Town owned that wasn’t private. The school board wasn’t in agreement, but unfortunately that’s the closest proximity that we could find, and while they may not be in agreement, they were notified that it was moving and they didn’t provide any comment at the time.”

MacIsaac said notification was sent on Thursday, Apr. 7 to the principals at St. James Regional High and St. James Junior High, as well as the school board informing them the bus stop was moved approximately 60 meters west, adjacent to the Butterfly Boutique.

“The only response I received back was thank you for the information. There was no concerns received in writing from the school board or any of the principals, not to myself.”

Mayor Brian Button said he didn’t receive any response from the school board either, and stated that the Town had no choice but to move the shelter as it was located on private property.

“We notified them and I had only heard as well that they hadn’t moved the bus stop, but they were notified. I didn’t receive anything from them to tell me otherwise if they agreed or disagreed,” said Button. “Didn’t hear anything back from them. We notified them of the changes of where it had to go, and then it was over to them to make the necessary changes in their schedules.”

Representatives from the Newfoundland and Labrador English District (NLESD) school board were contacted for comment but did not respond to inquiries in time for publication.

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