By Cole Parkinson
First Student and some of their drivers have voiced their frustrations with a Vauxhall bylaw that prohibits the drivers from parking their buses on their property.
During council’s regular meeting on Oct. 16, restrictions within bylaw 906-16 were discussed as First Student bus drivers were hoping to see some amendments to the bylaw.
The section in question states that “no person who is the operator and/or owner of a school, passenger or transport bus shall park a bus on any highway within the Town of Vauxhall. The bus may operate during the normal course of picking up or dropping off passengers within the town. Permitted parking of any bus must be in a designated and approved location within the Town of Vauxhall’s Land Use Bylaw. Busses must abide by the Town’s Heavy Truck Route during all other passage within the Town of Vauxhall corporate limits.”
First Student says that Vauxhall is home to some of their drivers and they have tried different measures to try to keep their buses parked on their property.
“We have four other drivers and two spares who have enjoyed the company perk and that would be keeping their buses at home between their runs and in the evening hours. A couple of these drivers have gone to the expanse of pouring cement pads to ensure their buses are parked off the streets and causing no disturbance to their neighbours,” said Cara Gross from First Student.
While drivers from Vauxhall are affected, so too are out of town drivers who stop within the town according to First Student.
They say that many of their drivers come in between their routes in Vauxhall but with the way the bylaw is set up, that may deter them in the future.
“I am sure that all of our drivers would be more than happy to abide by the town’s heavy truck route providing there is somewhere agreeable to all where the buses could safely park while drivers visit family, buy groceries, check the mail and do small errands. There is a possibility that the out of town drivers will no longer shop in Vauxhall as this is a definite perk provided to drivers by First Student. This may be considered a loss financially to several of the small businesses here in Vauxhall where drivers typically spend their money. We have five out of town drivers, the Vauxhall drivers and three Hays transfer drivers that could potentially hurt the town’s business,” said Gross.
First Student at one time had an up and running bus barn located in the Town of Vauxhall where the buses were stored and kept in doors.
The barn was closed on March 31, 2012 as First Student terminated the lease to save money which has in some part fuelled the issue of parking buses in town.
Many First Student employees are still wondering why the barn was scrapped and they say that the higher up powers who made the decision don’t realize what the challenges are in Vauxhall, especially during the cold winter months.
“As far as our employer is concerned just storing it is a safe place but they don’t know what it’s like here in Vauxhall, they don’t,” said Katie O’Brien, operations supervisor for First Student.
The buses currently are all parked in Vauxhall’s industrial area outdoors and according to the driver’s in attendance when it’s cold out, this can add approximately 30 minutes of work time as they have to warm up their cars, drive over and then warm up the bus.
All seven drivers in attendance wrote letters to council detailing their experiences and displeasure of the bylaw restricting them from parking their buses on their property. While council heard the arguments from the First Student delegate, they realized that they would need some more opinions before coming to a resolution.
“We’ll look over the bylaw and I imagine we will have another committee that we will probably get involved with this before we do make a final decision,” said Mayor Margaret Plumtree.
Aside from the hope to change bylaw 906-16, First Student also offered their services and buses as an emergency service transportation for Vauxhall, non dependant on the bylaw decision.