Bapst, city to cooperate on parking

Posted Sept. 02, 2009, at 9:25 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — City officials and the head of John Bapst Memorial High School agreed Wednesday to cooperate in an effort to solve parking problems around the school, though police will continue to enforce the city’s parking laws in the interim.

The city will conduct a study of the parking spaces near the school and the rules that govern them in an effort to create more spaces that don’t have time restrictions. The result of that study will be reported back to councilors in October.

City Manager Edward Barrett said the Police Department could also work with the school to improve the security of students walking to their cars at night — an issue of paramount concern, according to John Bapst Head of School Mel MacKay — but that the long-term solution is unavoidable.

“Undoubtedly, creating more off-street parking in the area is part of the solution,” said Barrett during a meeting Wednesday of the City Council’s government operations committee.

The issue arose last month when Police Chief Ron Gastia ordered his officers to increase enforcement of the city’s parking laws. Last week, MacKay asked city councilors to delay that enforcement effort around the school, a request that the committee denied on the grounds that it would be unfair to others.

MacKay on Wednesday again suggested that the Police Department relax its enforcement efforts around the school while the issue is under examination, which drew a pointed response from Councilor Patricia Blanchette.

“It’s a matter of fairness,” she said to MacKay. “I’m not inclined to do something for you, the school and the student body that I can’t do for all the citizens of Bangor. Under no circumstances will I ask the Police Department to turn their backs on the city’s ordinances.”

Deputy Police Chief Peter Arno said the department issued 12 written warnings in the John Bapst area on Wednesday, but he suspected not all of the illegally parked cars were connected to the school. Arno and Barrett both said they saw several empty spaces in the area throughout the day.

“If the problem doesn’t get any worse than it is now, it appears to be fine,” Arno said. “That might change in the winter months when there are snow banks to deal with.”

John Pearson of Holden, a John Bapst senior who is also president of the student senate, has been trying to notify the student body about the problem through conversations with classmates and postings on Facebook, the social networking Web site that he said is read by at least 250 students. Pearson is planning a forum for stu-dents that might be held as soon as next week.

“I’m glad about the outcome,” he said after the meeting. “I think this will work out.”

Pearson said students sometimes joke around about having to walk long distances from their cars to the school, but that the more pressing concern is walking back, especially after dark.

“Bangor is, for the most part, a safe city, but safety is an issue when you’re walking in a residential area that’s not well lit,” he said. “I think we can work with the City Council and work things out.”

Neither Pearson nor Arno identified any incidents in which a student was harmed while walking near the school.

MacKay and several councilors agreed that solutions will be found.

“I think we’re beginning to move forward,” said MacKay, who added that the school is exploring long-term solutions that involve property ownership and possibly financial resources that aren’t readily available.

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