Virginia Beach approves use of school buses for ‘Something in the Water’ festival

The school bus cameras are activated when the stop-arm is deployed. The cameras can record images from the front and back of the vehicle passing. (Southside Daily Photo/courtesy of David Tace)
(Southside Daily Photo/courtesy of David Tace)

Virginia Beach City Council unanimously approved the use of 70 school buses to transport people back and forth to the Oceanfront during the “Something in the Water” festival.

Tuesday’s vote came with much hesitation.

“This seems now to be consuming the whole city and I’m not sure we are up to that,” said Councilwoman Barbara Henley. “I’m really worried we are rapidly exceeding our capacity and ability to handle this.”

The plan is to park 4,500 cars at the intersection of General Booth Boulevard and Dam Neck Road. Henley said that’s a bad idea.

“The General Booth Boulevard and Dam Neck Road intersection at Oceana happens to be one of the most congested, most accident-prone areas we got in this city,” Henley said.

Another concern is the bus drivers themselves.

“If we are going to be running these bus drivers until 11 p.m. are the bus drivers going to be in a state where they can then go to work Monday morning to take kids to school,” questioned Councilwoman Jessica Abbott.

Abbott also said everything seems to be happening so last minute.

“I feel like my vote is being held hostage because we didn’t have adequate time to gather information, go out to the public, say this is what it is, this is what it isn’t,” Abbott said.

While Councilman John Moss questioned what if something goes horribly wrong, like a crash or an injury?

”Who is the underwriter for any liability that they inquire? It’s us,” Moss said.

Council members approved the use of school buses with a few exceptions, no buses will run past 7 p.m. Sunday night and the festival promoter will assume all liability.

In a Facebook post, Virginia Beach School Board member Victoria Manning said the city council voted to send to the “topic of school board usage” for the festival to the school board for a vote.

“That is where it should have begun in the first place since state law indicates that the School Board will be entering into the contract (not the Superintendent),” Manning said in the post.

The city plans to appropriate $350,000 in estimated reimbursements to the school district to pay for the cost of the buses and drivers.

RELATED STORY: Optimism, but also an age-old concern: Where will everyone park at the Oceanfront during the Pharrell thing

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.