VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — City Council cautiously gave the go ahead for city school buses to be used for Something in the Water festival at the end of this month.
The unanimous vote came after a lengthy discussion about communication and the need for City Council to be heavily “in the know” for all things related to the festival.
“If anything goes wrong the buck stops here,” said Councilwoman Barbara Henley, Princess Anne district. “That is why we really have the responsibility to make certain [the festival] is safe, successful event. Therefore I was a little concerned all of this was coming at us at the very last minute.”
City Manager Dave Hansen spoke at length on how he was approached by the Something in the Water organizer two weeks ago about the possibility of using 70 city school buses to shuttle concert goers from a 4,500 vehicle lot at the corner of General Booth Boulevard and Dam Neck Road to the 5th street stage.
“I thought it was a great opportunity for the schools to contribute to something that might be historic,” Hansen said.
But, the subject became controversial, mainly because council members and City of Virginia Beach School Board members said they were never notified of the proposal until several day ago.
“I never received any kind of brief that we were going to use school buses,” said Councilwoman Jessica Abbott, Kempsville district.
Hansen assured council that they had to make the request for use of the buses, before the school board could vote to allow it.
If the school board does allow for the buses to be used, Something in the Water Festival has committed to reimburse the city for the use. The resolution approved by council Tuesday is estimating it will cost roughly $350,000.
Under the proposed agreement, drivers would be volunteers only and signs will be in place to inform passengers of the buses’ interior cameras.
“The bus drivers are being paid time and a half and they will be given an extra hour to clean their buses when they are done,” Hansen said.
Vice-Mayor James Wood amended the resolution by adding that the festival organizers were required to take on 100% of the liability involved and the buses must not be used after 7 p.m. Sunday as to allow drivers rest before school Monday.
No word yet on if festival organizers would agree to those added stipulations.
Passes for the three-day festival officially sold out last week, about one month in advance.
The weekend of the festival — the final weekend in April — is traditionally when College Beach Weekend is unofficially held in Virginia Beach.
The city is preparing for massive crowds of people to flock to the Oceanfront that weekend. A spokesperson for festival producer BWG Inc. said in March they expect more than 25,000 people to attend each day of the festival.
To help with traffic, the Atlantic Avenue trolleys will run on a loop between the major event locations along both Atlantic, Pacific Avenues and the Convention Center. A Virginia Beach spokesperson told 10 On Your Side the city is planning to also pay Hampton Roads Transit to operate the special event.
BWG said last month it is considering crowd-funded shuttles as option for those coming to the festival from outside the Hampton Roads region.