Jacksonville State University officials have urged students to walk or use the campus bus system this week to address a parking shortage caused by the March 19 tornado.
Students returned to classes on Tuesday for the start of the fall semester, but quickly learned that parking around much of campus was at a premium. Protective fences around buildings undergoing tornado damage repairs have blocked valuable parking spaces and will continue to do so until at least late September, JSU officials say.
“It’s rough, but this won’t be for the whole semester,” Buffy Lockette, spokeswoman for JSU, said of the parking shortage. “We’ve got fences up while they’re replacing roofs and that’s the main reason for the lack of parking ... but we expect that to be done in the next few weeks.”
Lockette said the goal is to have most of the protective fencing and scaffolding down by Sept. 29 for homecoming.
“We should have all the roofs except maybe the library done by homecoming week,” said President John Beehler.
“In the meantime, students are totally safe,” Beehler said. “We have told them to stay under the scaffolding.”
To help alleviate the parking shortage, students have been asked to either walk to classes or use Gamecock Express, the campus bus system, Lockette said.
“Commuting students will have a hard time with that, but able-bodied students who live on campus should be walking,” Lockette said.
Lockette noted that because of the situation, university police would be lenient on issuing parking tickets for at least the first month of classes. Still, there’s little chance that police will stop writing parking tickets altogether.
“We don’t think that would solve the problem, just make it tougher,” Lockette said. “Without parking rules, people would just stop trying to walk and there would be more congestion.”
So far, the campus has received few complaints from students about the parking situation, Lockette said.
“We’ve been sending them emails about it ... the students have been really understanding and flexible,” she said.
A parking shortage isn’t the only issue some students have faced this week. There are 44 students still waiting for the campus housing they were promised.
Lockette said it’ll be at least another two weeks before the university can install 22 mobile homes bought to house those students. In the meantime, those students are being housed temporarily in dorm rooms with other students, Lockette said.
JSU spent $594,000 on the two-bedroom, two-bath mobile homes to address the off-campus housing shortage caused by damage from the tornado.
Currently, the homes are in the Pete Mathews Coliseum parking lot. The plan is to install them on Mountain Street Northwest and Goodlett Avenue.
Lockette said water and sewer lines still have to be installed for the mobile homes. Also, federal and state mobile home regulations must be met, such as ensuring water drainage is properly managed.
“I don’t think we really knew the extent of the regulations because we’ve never done anything like this before,” Lockette said. “But we’re on a good track now and should have them ready in two weeks.”