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No-parking zones vex parents

Published:   |   Updated: August 21, 2013 at 10:54 AM

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BROOKSVILLE - Jerry Tucker hated having to rope off his yard and put up the "no trespassing" signs Monday, but this was the first day of another school year.

"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see what's going to happen," he said.

The first fleet appeared in the neighborhood behind Explorer K-8 around 3 p.m. Monday, an hour before school was dismissed. Parents in minivans, four-door cabs, and pickup trucks swung into the neighborhood and passed the newly constructed signs along Landover Boulevard restricting parking, standing, or stopping within 750 feet of the school during the hours prior to the beginning and end of school.

At the four-way intersection at the end of the road were Traffic Unit Supervisor Sgt. Scott Lamia and Lt. John Cameron of the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.

Among several other deputies in the area, they are working an informational campaign about the new ordinance passed by county commissioners, and the $50 citations they'll have to issue to those in violation.

"What brought this all on is when they stopped the courtesy busing and the traffic was backing up so much it was almost to Mariner Boulevard and creating a safety hazard," Cameron said.

"When the kids are walking back here, we don't have any crossing guards and a kid ran in front of a van from what I understand."

Tucker recalls just about every day last year a car in the neighborhood had to slam on the brakes to prevent hitting a student, he said, and believes it's just a matter of time before it happens again.

"When we're talking about the funding, they went after the kids and the parents, and it amazes me that the politicians won't raise taxes for public schools," Tucker said.

"Public schools are dying, and with all the people that have moved here in the last 10 years, it just amazes me there's no money to be raised to care for the infrastructure with the schools."

Erin and Robert Merrill have two children with autism who they've had to pick up and drop off since the courtesy busing was eliminated, they said, and live 1.98 miles in the two-mile bus zone.

They were among the first to arrive at the intersection Monday to speak with the deputies, who were handing out pamphlets to raise awareness about the ordinance.

"My kids have been going to school here four years, and we have no buses now," Erin Merrill said.

"Last year it was an hour wait in the pick-up line. I'd rather pay $100 a month for a bus to stop this. They'll see these lines are going to be outrageous."

By the time school was dismissed at 3:55 p.m. Monday, the traffic looked the same along the half-mile pick-up line at Explorer K8, backing out to stall the 45-mph lanes of traffic on Northcliffe Boulevard.

Every parent who spoke with Hernando Today expressed the same safety concern, and perhaps unintended consequence of the new ordinance: the 750-foot marker ends at Landover.

Across Landover are other residential areas with grass parking spots, which parents quickly filled Monday. The concern, parents say, is instead of students crossing neighborhood roads to catch a ride, they'll likely be darting across the two, 40-mph lanes on Landover to parked cars on the other side.

Kyley Owens has a child in elementary school at Explorer and was among the dozens of parents crowding around the gate in the neighborhood that backs up to the school. She said her brother dropped her off on the other side of Landover across from the "no parking, stopping, standing" sign.

While he searched for a place to park there, she said she crossed Landover into the neighborhood to meet her child at the gate.

"How do you put 'it sucks' properly?" Owens said. "There are a lot of students up to second- or third-grade they won't release from the gate until their parents get there. I don't know. I just disagree."

Fortunately the county's engineering department has a $100,000 traffic safety improvement plan in the works for the neighborhood and surrounding area, Cameron said, and one that involves adding sidewalks and crossing guards.

"I believe by December this project should be done," he said. "I hope at some point (parents) will consider their kids' safety. We need to make sure the kids are safe as possible."

Exactly where the crossing guards and sidewalks will be is yet to be determined, he said.

"If you don't have a kid going to school, go an alternate route," Cameron said. "Try to go down the side street. But so far no kids were injured, and that's all we ask for."

(352) 544-5271

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