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Victoria Lane dangerous for school buses, official says

POSTED: January 26, 2009 11:58 p.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

Judy Haire, center, and Jaime Browning, right, pick up their children Monday at the corner of County Line Road and Victoria Lane in Lula. The two mothers have to pick up their children because county school buses don't go down Victoria Lane, which is mostly unpaved and ridden with potholes.

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The mud, holes and bumps on Victoria Lane in Lula make the road so hard to maneuver that the Hall County school system has stopped school bus service to the neighborhood.

About 30 children who live in the neighborhood are dropped off on County Line Road instead of at their houses.

Jewel Armour, executive director of operations for the school system, said he is sorry the buses had to stop traveling Victoria Lane, but the decision had to be made in everyone’s best interest.

"We just cannot risk the safety of the kids that are already on the bus," Armour said. "It’s going to tear our buses up."

Victoria Lane was built as a lease-to-own neighborhood of doublewide mobile homes nearly 10 years ago.

The developer, Barry Wikle, skipped town before the road was completed, leaving the burden of finishing the road to the property owners.

Though the road is in Lula, the city is unable to do anything to the road because it is private property.

"You can’t take taxpayer dollars and use them to make improvements on private roads," said Lula City Manager Dennis Bergin. "Legally, we can’t."

Bergin said there is not yet a solution to the problem, but he would like to see it resolved. He said the residents’ best hope is to start with an agreement among property owners to begin improvements. He said taking small steps is likely the best way to improve the road.

"Our goal is the same — work together to get it done," Bergin said. "There’s not an instant cure overnight."

Armour said he accommodated the Victoria Lane families as long as possible.

"It’s been an issue for many, many years now. We tried to keep the bus going, understanding the predicament they were in, as long as we could," Armour said. "It has just really gone down. The conditions have worsened and worsened."

The frequent, heavy rains recently in Hall County made the road nearly impossible to use, Armour said.

A school bus once got stuck on Victoria Lane and had to be towed.

"We’ve gone about as far as we can go," Armour said. "It’s too risky."

Judy Haire, who lives on Tara Trail off Victoria Lane, was outside waiting for her children’s bus to arrive Monday afternoon on County Line Road.

Haire said the poor condition of the road has made life difficult for her.

"We moved up here in September, and then all the sudden they stopped (bus service) two or three weeks ago," Haire said. "We have to drive down every morning and afternoon."

Haire said it would take about 45 minutes to walk down to the entrance of Victoria Lane with her two small children, Leighann, 7, and Matthew, 5, so driving is the only option. Because no one else could drive her kids to the bus stop, Haire said she had to quit her job so to be available to get her kids to school.

Victoria Lane residents Cary and Kenneth Lippert said the shabby road is not only an inconvenience but a safety hazard.

Kenneth Lippert has seizures and heart problems and said he worries that one day, an ambulance may not reach him in time.

"The other day, I had to call an ambulance for my husband, and they were delayed almost 10 minutes (because of the road). He could have died," Cary Lippert said. "Regardless of whose map we’re on, this is becoming a real safety concern."



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