Napoleon Area City Schools Board of Education Wednesday reviewed a traffic study aimed at improving parking on the campus.
The district and the City of Napoleon have a campus improvement plan agreement that included the district improving Clairmont Avenue between Briarheath Avenue and Westmoreland Avenue and then turning the road over to the city, which has been done. In turn, the city will repay the district $150,000 over a three-year period.
A part of that campus improvement plan was also that the district would improve parking and traffic issues along Westmoreland Avenue, and Mannik and Smith Group, Inc. was hired to perform a parking lot improvements study. The agreement states the district has $700,000 budgeted to address the most crucial of the parking and traffic issues, but is seeking recommendations from an independent consultant as to how best apply the funds.
On Wednesday, Cory Niekamp, business manager for the district, explained there were five issues they want to address with the study, including limited parking at the elementary school during special events; cars parking illegally along Westmoreland Avenue during baseball, softball and soccer games and practices; limited parking available for football and soccer games at the stadium; no safe crosswalk on Westmoreland Avenue to facilitate the safe crossing of pedestrians between the elementary school front parking lot and the athletics facilities; and a high number of elementary student pick-up and drop-offs, which creates unsafe traffic back-ups for both lanes of traffic on Westmoreland Avenue.
The study looked at the current parking situation on the campus and found two of three areas met minimum standards required for off-street parking. At the elementary school, a minimum of 242 spaces is required and the district has 246. At the junior/senior high school, there’s 445 spaces required and currently 487 spots. However, the stadium parking should have 1,045 spaces, more than the current 884 spaces on the campus.
Two options were presented in the study, with the first only focusing on making the stadium parking lot and elementary parking lot bigger. The second option was recommended by the firm and includes reorganizing and expanding those two parking lots and developing pedestrian and bicycle access from Briarheath Avenue throughout the campus to the elementary school.
“The idea is to reduce congestion along Westmoreland by providing more options for drop-off/pick-up and encouraging students to walk and bike to school,” Niekamp said. “The goal with this master plan is to have a common sidewalk that links everything together, you would have a main crosswalk right in front of the elementary.”
Within the recommended option, there are six phases that could be completed at different times.
The first phase would include increasing parking at the Buckenmeyer Stadium parking lot by expanding the parking area south and removing the junior varsity softball field to create 165 parking spaces. That would also include providing sidewalks along the east side and across Westmoreland Avenue and connecting the existing walkways and enhancing the roadway crossing. The access to the parking lot would be moved south directly across from the parking at the front of the elementary school. This phase would also include the removal of the barrier-free parking adjacent to the softball field on the east side of Westmoreland. Parking along the roadway would be strictly prohibited.
Board member Michael Wesche expressed concern with the removal of the JV softball field, asking why the elementary lot couldn’t be expanded and improving crosswalks.
Niekamp said the goal would be to maximize parking at the stadium so people park right next to the softball field, which would eliminate 200 feet of walking from the current stadium lot compared to the expanded lot. In addition, he said they would like to centralize the parking near where the athletic events are held.
“The goal from the engineering standpoint is, with all of that traffic, if we maximize the parking at the elementary, you’re going to have cross Westmoreland and that’s where all the cars are coming out at - where that crosswalk would be,” he said.
Niekamp added the new kickball/softball/baseball field constructed behind the elementary school was built in coordination with city officials to ensure it met specifications so it can be used for softball games if the current JV field is removed, and the city is helping to maintain it. He noted the portable bleachers at the JV field could be relocated there, and there’s been discussions of adding a shelterhouse that could be utilized for concessions.
“We don’t want to take facilities away, we want to make improvements,” he said.
Phase two would include reorganizing the parking in front of the elementary building, and Niekamp said they have been working with the city on a compromise.
“There’s a fire lane that’s currently not being used — only as a fire lane — so we worked with the city and the engineer came up with a proposal where we can modify that layout, do a little bit of expansion and dramatically lower the cost of the project,” Niekamp said. That would be a gain of 94 parking spaces.
Phase three is a shared-use pathway for pedestrians and bicycles across the campus north of the science pond near Briarheath Drive and through the athletic fields to the stadium parking. That would connect to the walkway leading to the elementary.
“That would help traffic flow and, as you empty into the Buckenmeyer (stadium) parking lot, there’s a crosswalk right there between the stadium parking lot and the elementary,” Niekamp explained.
Phase four includes reorganizing the bus garage entrance from having two drives to create one entrance. Phase five would only be utilized if the school were to expand to allow for more teacher parking in that lot. Phase six includes adding sidewalks along the south side of the baseball field north of Bales Road to improve a route for students to walk to school.
The initial recommendation from the firm was to proceed with phases one and three now, which would cost $636,958.50.
Treasurer Michael Bostelman said the district is planning on using $700,000 from reissuing bonds earlier this year toward the first part of the project. He added they are working to close out the district’s Ohio Facilities Construction Commission project, which will allow the remaining $2.1 million to return to the district to use for capital improvements. Costs for remaining improvements would come from those funds. Board approval would also be needed for each additional phase.
The district and the City of Napoleon are working on a Safe Routes to School grant application to also help students to safely walk or bike to school.
During the public participation part of the meeting, Nancy Bump, acting president of the Lady Cat Softball Club, addressed the board, asking them to consider keeping the JV field.
Bump said there has been a lot of fundraising done to make improvements to the current JV field and the change could reduce fundraising from the concession stand if it’s split in two locations, as well as creating a safety concern of kids crossing the road to go between fields.
“I think it would be a very negative thing for us to demolish a field that we utilize every single day,” she said. “By separating my fields — JV and varsity — that causes a huge safety factor in little ones crossing a road to get to my concession stand.
“We’ve had a ton of money that’s come in that built that new fieldhouse for us, and it’s a shame that now things are really separated if we put one across the street,” she continued.
The board did not take any action and will continue to discuss options. Superintendent Dr. Erik Belcher said they will be taking the input into consideration as they continue discussions prior to it returning to the board next month for approval. He added adjustments can be made to the plan depending on those discussions.
“We appreciate all of the input we get on these ... it can lead to new ideas,” he said.
The board approval planned for November would also include engaging an engineering firm to create plans by January or February so bids can go out in February or March and the project would be done in June and July.