New or­di­nance tar­gets street park­ing near Mana­tee County schools

The Bradenton Herald (Sunday) - - Local - BY RYAN CALLIHAN rcal­li­[email protected]­ton.com

MANA­TEE

In the name of safety for drivers and con­ve­nience for law en­force­ment, the Mana­tee County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers voted 6-1 to ap­prove a new or­di­nance that blocks drivers from park­ing on the right-of-way near schools be­tween 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. on school days.

County staff said the change, which is set to take ef­fect Jan. 1, comes with nu­mer­ous ben­e­fits. For one, many park­ing signs near schools list spe­cific time slots when the no park­ing rule is en­forced. The is­sue, how­ever, is that school hours tend to change on an an­nual ba­sis, mak­ing those signs in­ef­fec­tive and in­ac­cu­rate when school hours change.

“School sched­ules change ev­ery year — you all know this,” said Aaron Bur­kett, traf­fic op­er­a­tions di­vi­sion man­ager. “This cre­ates a chal­lenge for sher­iff’s deputies to en­force these ex­ist­ing or­di­nances.”

Bur­kett said his staff be­gan a coun­ty­wide search for ex­ist­ing or­di­nances — some more than a decade old — that were no longer ac­cu­rate due to changes in school sched­ules. The new blan­ket or­di­nance is meant to proac­tively ac­count for fu­ture changes in school hours.

Fol­low­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion, Com­mis­sioner Carol Whit­more im­me­di­ately dis­agreed with the pro­posal and asked why the re­stric­tion couldn’t be lim­ited to school hours. Bur­kett said an am­bigu­ous sign like that one would as­sume that drivers know what the cur­rent school hours are, which isn’t al­ways the case.

“We’ve got some of the most com­plex school sched­ules around,” Bur­kett said. “I know this from ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause we sched­ule school flash­ers. They also have holi- days and half days as well so once you start putting times on there, even if you put ‘dur­ing school hours,’ that can be vague and hard to en­force.”

County Ad­min­is­tra­tor Ed Hun­zeker noted that an or­di­nance that only goes by “school hours” would put the onus not only on par­ents and drivers to be aware of school sched­ules but on deputies who pa­trol the en­tire county. Whit­more’s mind re­mained un­changed and she cast the dis­sent­ing vote.

Lim­it­ing the park­ing re­stric­tion to cer­tain times would be a good idea, County At­tor­ney Mitchell Palmer sug­gested. He ex­plain­ing that a school’s hours might tech­ni­cally be from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., but the busiest time of the day in terms of park­ing could eas­ily be around 3:30 p.m. when par­ents pick their chil­dren up, which would fall out of the cited range.

In her first pub­lic meet­ing as a county com­mis­sioner, Misty Servia raised con­cern based on her own

ex­pe­ri­ence with park­ing at Mana­tee County schools.

“I would like to see some com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the school board to work col­lec­tively to­gether be­cause as a par­ent who has to pick up their child for a doc­tor ap­point­ment and can’t phys­i­cally get on the school prop­erty to go and pick up my child, there’s no other re­sort than to park on the street,” Servia said.

The board agreed to hold off on en­act­ing law un­til the be­gin­ning of

2019 to al­low for more time to get the word out to drivers and pos­si­bly change the terms of the or­di­nance for sit­u­a­tions sim­i­lar to the one Servia men­tioned.

Ac­cord­ing to county staff, the pro­posal is meant to “en­cour­age drivers to use the de­sig- nated pickup/drop off area on school prop­erty.” Sage Kamiya, deputy di­rec­tor of traf­fic man­age­ment, said the Mana­tee County School Board re­quested the change and was kept abreast of the pro­posal as it went through var­i­ous re­vi­sions. The Mana­tee County Sher­iff’s Of­fice also pro­vided in­put.

But Com­mis­sioner Vanessa Baugh ad­vised her fel­low board mem­bers to re­al­ize that safety was among the main drivers of the pro­posal.

“These cars are park­ing on pub­lic streets and not com­ing out for a long time, for what­ever rea­son. They’re go­ing in there to help out in a class that day or have lunch or what­ever the case may be,” Baugh said. “These cars are, a lot of the time, park­ing on a curve, which is the prob­lem the sher­iff’s of­fice has had. The cars will park on the curve and it makes it hard for the cars that are try­ing to get around the cars that are parked be­cause they can’t see.”

Baugh’s ar­gu­ment res­onated with Com­mis­sioner Betsy Benac, who said she has ex­pe­ri­enced those traf­fic is­sues her­self.

“Quite frankly, what hap­pens around Mana­tee High is dan­ger­ous. I’ve tried to drive through there dur­ing school hours and there are peo­ple driv­ing like crazy ma­ni­acs try­ing to get around. We need to block this,” Benac said. “This is a safety is­sue. This is a pub­lic safety is­sue. If we don’t stop this from hap­pen­ing, the onus has to be on the school board to pro­vide par­ents with a place to park.”

As­sis­tant County At­tor­ney Katharine Zam­boni noted that the or­di­nance isn’t “in­tended to be a gotcha to gen­er­ate rev­enue” for the sher­iff’s of­fice. Lee­way will be given to those load­ing or un­load­ing pas­sen­gers, she said.

“Per­son­ally, we have a lot of trou­ble in my dis­trict with the main roads and traf­fic get­ting clogged up, so if the sher­iff, the school board and our peo­ple think this is what they need, I’m go­ing to sup­port them on it,” said Com­mis­sioner Priscilla Trace.

THIS IS A SAFETY IS­SUE. THIS IS A PUB­LIC SAFETY IS­SUE.

Com­mis­sioner Betsy Benac

TIF­FANY TOMPKINS ttomp­[email protected]­ton.com

The Mana­tee County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers voted 6-1 to ap­prove a new or­di­nance that blocks drivers from park­ing on the right-of-way near schools be­tween 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. on school days. Signs show no park­ing on the street just south of Mana­tee High.

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