District officials stress importance of I-80/I-99 interchange project

BELLEFONTE — Bus safety is a top concern of school directors, and Bellefonte is no exception.

With PennDOT seeking funding for a new project that will include a high-speed interchange at Interstate 80 and Interstate 99 in Bellefonte, and a local access interchange and enhancement of Route 26/Jacksonville Road, the Bellefonte Board of School Directors are looking to stress the importance of making the I-80/I-99 interchange part of the project finally happen.

During the Tuesday, Nov. 9 meeting of the Bellefonte Board of School Directors, Board President Rodney Musser discussed how there are safety issues for Bellefonte and other area school district buses at the I-80/I-99 interchange. The Centre County Metropolitan Planning Organization has made two priority items: a local interchange over the Seven Mountains in State College and the I-80/I-99 interchange.

“There is some concern that it may be secondary to the other project, and that if there are interim things done, that will actually amount to, perhaps $40 million,” Musser said. “If they put that kind of money into that without actually doing the interchange, they will prolong actually doing that interchange.”

There are several issues, Musser said, one of which is safety for students and others in the area.

School Director Michael Danneker said that there have been some close calls at the I-80/I-99 interchange. “It’s something that needs to be looked at, and it needs some pressure from us.”

There was an incident with a bus a few years ago at the interchange, added School Director Robert Pacella.

Superintendent of Schools Michelle Saylor will draft a resolution to address these issues and look at it at the next meeting, which will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 21. Musser has suggested that the school board write a letter requesting local representatives to encourage the interchange as a priority item.

In other business, members of the school board approved the 2018-19 budget calendar. Of note, District Fiscal Director Ken Bean said, is the Jan. 23, 2018, school board meeting, where the school board may adopt a resolution to not raise taxes above the index or make a proposed preliminary budget publicly available. If no resolution is made, the school board will adopt a preliminary budget proposal at its Feb. 13, 2018, meeting.

Other budget dates to note in 2018 are:

r March 27: Board’s first review of the budget

r April 10: Board’s second review of the budget

r April 24: Board’s third review of the budget

r May 8: Board’s adoption of 2018-19 proposed final budget

r May 18: Proposed final budget will be made available for public inspection

r May 22: Board’s review of proposed final budget

r June 12: Final adoption of budget