07/10/04 — Bad idea floated: How should children on Banks get to school?

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Bad idea floated: How should children on Banks get to school?

The state is at war with itself on the Outer Banks.

What’s happened is that one branch of the state — the Department of Transportation — has broken the rules of another branch — the Division of Coastal Management.

The Transportation Department made a 750-foot-long channel in the Currituck Sound, 5 feet deep. The channel was needed for a pontoon boat which supposedly will make daily trips from Corolla to the mainland, ferrying about a dozen children to school and back.

These children previously have gone to school on the Outer Banks, being bused a few miles south to schools in Dare County. Corolla is in Currituck County, and there aren’t enough children in the Outer Banks part of Currituck to warrant building a school there.

Now Dare officials say they will no longer accept these Currituck children because of overcrowding.

That’s not very neighborly.

To get these Currituck Outer Banks children to mainland Currituck schools by land would require a long, round-about trip. The nearest bridge is miles away.

So somebody came up with the idea of the pontoon ferry, and that led to the channel, which led to the additional digging, at a dock, of a boat basin 50 feet long and 110 feet wide. Both the channel and the basin were dug through the “kicking” method, which means a big boat propeller was used like a fan to blow dirt and silt from the bottom, thus deepening the water.

It was done without a permit from the Division of Coastal Management, so that branch of the state issued a citation to the Transportation Department, which might have to pay a $2,500 fine.

Big deal. State agencies don’t pay fines; taxpayers do. And in this case, they would pay it to themselves, since the recipient also would be a state agency.

The best thing to do would be forget about the fine. The Transportation Department has expressed remorse and promised to get to the bottom of it (pardon the pun), so let the matter rest.

Except for one thing. The plan to ferry children across the four-mile-wide sound on a school boat is not good. The sound can be treacherous in bad weather, and soon the children are going to get stranded on one side or the other — or their safety is going to be jeopardized.

One solution might be for Currituck County to ante up and help Dare County make provisions for them. For 12 children, it shouldn’t be prohibitively expensive, especially in comparison to the cost of all that channel maintenance and ferry operation.

Published in Editorials on July 10, 2004 11:59 PM