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Cloverbank parking lot deadline approaches

HAMBURG — Frontier School District officials have less than two weeks to decide on a plan moving forward, regarding a proposed parking lot and drop-off area at Cloverbank Elementary School.

If residents’ opinion at the June 17 meeting hold water, those plans would not include the addition of an entire parking lot; rather, a revised plan was proposed to include a drop-off area. The district is on the hook for $60,000 as part of the paving project, which was said to be approved originally as part of Frontier’s $29.75 capital improvement project.

The board voted 4-2 at its June 3 meeting to approve a plan that would allow for additional parking, as well as a separate area for parents to drop off students at the front area of Cloverbank. More than 30 parking spaces would be made available, as part of the improvement. Green space and a front sidewalk would be somewhat affected, as well.

Board members Thomas Best Jr. and Martin Lalka voted against the resolution, which had been proposed by outgoing board member Jack Chiappone.

During the June 17 meeting, board members voted 6-0 to rescind this action, leaving officials scrambling to move forward with one of three options: Scrap the entire plan, which would net the district none of its $60,000 capital investment; move forward with the original, full plan; or third, amend the project to include revisions such as including a drop-off area with a few parking spaces, or various repair uses of funding.

A special meeting regarding the project will be held at 7 p.m. on June 24 at the Cloverbank Elementary auditorium. Public stakeholders’ opinions will be sought, regarding the matter. Another meeting regarding the project had been held on June 16 at Cloverbank, one of several meetings held with stakeholders, over the course of five years. Board President Janet Plarr, who abstained from the June 3 board vote regarding the project, reminded those in attendance that parking and related plans at Cloverbank had been presented to stakeholders five years ago upon capital project inception and since, with “no public interventions.”

Additionally, Plarr said, misconceptions exist regarding alternative use of the aforementioned $60,000. Those funds cannot be used to restore positions and other district amenities; rather, the monies are strictly allocated for capital improvements and repairs.

Board Member Larry Albert added that the original site plan had been re-drawn numerous times, already. He also said three consecutive building principals had expressed safety concerns with the site.

“This was a long-term plan to answer principals’ concerns for safety,” Albert said, of the project.

Best said the better plan moving forward would likely be to amend project parameters, without losing the entire $60,000 devoted to improvements. At the June 3 meeting, he had expressed his concern about the need for transparency with stakeholders, and although he was not against the parking plan, he reiterated the need to quell community concern.

“It’s pretty clear the stakeholders aren’t happy with the [proposed] design,” said Best, who added that many of the current stakeholders probably were not present at the district capital project’s inception. “We’re never going to have a plan that makes everybody happy, but [should try to find one that] makes most people happy. I don’t think we can scrap the whole thing.”

Best added that Monday’s meeting produced the idea that a drop-off area with some handicapped-accessible parking spots indicated would be viable possibility. Young + Wright Architectural serves as the district’s architect and had outlined various parking plans at the June 3 meeting. Board Member Patrick Boyle said it is his hope that the district makes use of the aforementioned funding in some regard.

During public comment session, several district residents said that Frontier officials were not transparent in communicating their desire to move ahead in approving the paving project. District residents who expressed concern with the parking lot renovation included Susan Zydel, Jeff Huber, Jeremey Rosen, Stacy Gillespie, Jim Battera and Celleste Chase. Zydel said she wasn’t against a drop-off loop being installed, but worries about green space being eliminated. Huber said district officials should have shown more transparency in the process and echoed the sentiment about losing green space. Chase called the overall project a “fiscally irresponsible move.”

Rosen, a former board of education member, indicated that a petition against the parking lot installation had generated 150 signatures from community members. He was joined Tuesday by his 6-year-old daughter Sophia, a Cloverbank student who held a sign indicating, “Please Keep Our Green Space.” Rosen cited a lack of transparency in the overall process, adding that safety issues have never been a problem under the existing school setup. He also wondered if an extra crossing guard or Hamburg police officer would be required at the location, to accommodate necessary safety measures.

“What if a kid gets dropped off and runs back to the car?” asked Rosen, referring to newly created traffic. “I don’t understand why we’re going to put in another parking lot when we can’t maintain what we have now. [District officials] need to talk to the teachers, talk to our community members. You didn’t inform the public, and the public is very upset about it.”

Rosen noted that funding could feasibly be used to install a courtyard or repair existing parking lots. He added that Cloverbank students use the current green space for school activities.

It was reported later that, in May 2011, the board of education unanimously approved a plan for the Cloverbank parking lot as part of capital improvement repairs. Additionally, it was noted that summer work at Cloverbank will take place in close proximity to the aforementioned parking lot area, including on unit ventilators, carpeting, valves and plumbing.

Current parking lot configuration allows for 110 parking spaces, with about 80 spaces for staff and 35 for designated visitors. Staff arrival time at Cloverbank is slated for 8:15 a.m., with bus arrival at 8:40 a.m. A separate entrance had been proposed for vehicles to drop off their children in a u-shaped turnabout, away from the bus drop-off and pickup area.

Chiappone, Interim Superintendent Paul Hashem and ex-officio board student representative Andrew Bojtanowski were recognized Tuesday for their tenures on the board. Some district officials even wore bowties, as a sign of appreciation for Bojtanowski, whose trademark outfits typically featured them. Chiappone served one five-year term on the board before being ousted in this past May’s election, as Plarr and newcomer Davis Bodkulski earned board seats. Hashem served as interim superintendent for the past 10 months and was described by board members as being the “perfect transitional administrator,” bridging the gap between previous superintendent James Bodziak and recently appointed school chief Dr. Bret Apthorpe.

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