SOUDERTON — Seven months after they first asked for a handicapped parking space in front of their N. Fourth Street home, it still hasn't been approved, Curtis and Lisa Freed said.
"I'm so frustrated that it's come to this point. As a community, I just can't believe that this is acceptable," Lisa Freed told Souderton Borough Council at its Sept. 9 meeting.
"It's not a good look for Souderton when it comes to special needs children," she said.
The handicapped parking space request is to help make it possible for the school bus to pick up their third grade grandson, Jordan Zola, she said. Zola, who was with the couple at the meeting, is in a wheelchair.
"This was at the request of the bus driver," Freed told the council.
"She has a hard time loading him. She needs to get curbside," Freed said later outside the meeting room.
That's not always possible, though, because of cars parked there, she said.
Freed, who brought along copies of the emails, said she emailed Souderton Borough Police Chief James Leary in February asking for either a handicapped parking space or restricted parking hours so there would not be vehicles parked there between the time the bus picks up and drops off Zola.
Leary emailed back that he had assessed the parking situation and would continue to assess it.
That was the last she heard until May when Leary said in a phone call that he could not justify a handicapped parking space, Freed said.
In late August after the bus driver again asked about having a handicapped parking space, Freed said she again emailed Leary and he emailed back in early September asking for more information on when the bus arrives in the morning and afternoon. On Sept. 9, the day of the borough council meeting, Leary emailed that he had been at the site that morning, but there was no bus pick up because Zola was not present. In the email, Leary wrote that he "will make every effort to personally view and understand the transport process."
Lisa Freed said Zola did not go to school Sept. 9 because he was sick.
Zola has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and asthma, Curtis Freed said.
He gets on and off the school bus at their home, the Freeds said, because he stays at their house several nights a week.
"His mother is a nurse and she works second shift," Lisa Freed said.
Ironically, Lisa Freed said she's heard the reason the space has not been granted for the space to assist the Souderton Area School District bus pickup is because some people object to the Freeds' private bus vehicle, a school bus they purchased and then painted blue.
"The reason we got that bus is because we have six grandchildren in all," she said. "We wanted to have a vehicle that all of us could go in together, six kids, a power wheelchair and two adults."
Having the bus allows Zola to interact with and do more things with the rest of the family, she said.
Zola picked the color when they had the bus repainted after they bought it, Lisa Freed said. The Freeds said they also added a walkway and elevator at their home to make it easier for Zola to get around.
Freed credited council member Julie Munden with being the only council member who has attempted to help get the handicapped parking spot.
"This is a little boy in a power wheelchair," she said. "How much more handicapped do you get?"
None of the borough officials immediately responded to Freed's comments during the public comment time at the meeting.
Asked for comment after the meeting, Leary said, "We will do what we can to help the child."
In a separate matter at the meeting, Margaret "Meg" Cross was appointed the council's new junior councilor.
Cross, a senior at Souderton Area High School, will hold the office for this school year, Borough Manager Mike Coll said.
The junior councilor position is open to high school juniors or seniors who live in the borough. The position does not have a vote on the board, but the junior councilor attends council meetings and can take part in discussions.
Cross came to the council meeting in August with suggestions for the planned improvements to Souderton Community Park.
At the meeting, she "heard that the junior councilor spot was open, so I went for it," Cross said.
Her other involvements include Scouting, she said.