B-W School Board Won't Remove Softball Field Parking Ban
'That (field) is the pride of the WPIAL.' - District parent
William D. McKain, the B-W School District's assistant to the superintendent for finance and operations, asked the school board on Feb. 1 to consider allowing parking on that field (typically used for softball, track and field, baseball and physical education) as way of helping the district to alleviate overflow parking issues during popular events at Baldwin High.
The board did not take a formal vote on that matter at either the Feb. 1 meeting or this Wednesday's, but board President John B. Schmotzer asked each member of the board on Feb. 8 whether or not he or she would support parking on the field at any time whatsoever.
Board members Nancy Sciulli DiNardo, Tracy Macek, Diana Kazour and Schmotzer each responded with "no" votes, but fellow board members Ray Rosing, Larry Pantuso and Kevin J. Fischer voted "yes."
George L. Pry was undecided, and Nancy Lee Crowder was absent from the meeting, causing Schmotzer to declare that the will of the board—based on the informal majority of "no" votes—is not to remove the district's ban on parking on that field.
Schmotzer acknowledged that parking on the field would certainly help to lessen parking complaints—as it did when it was permitted years ago—but said that the risk of damage to the field and its sprinkler system is not worth it, especially in light of around $500,000 of refurbishments made to the field, which debuted as an impressive new softball complex in April 2010.
Edward Lippl, the senior class representative to the school board, agreed with Schmotzer for similar reasons and cited a Patch poll in which readers voted predominantly against parking on the field.
Schmotzer said that the district will continue to offer shuttle service to Baldwin High from locations such as the nearby Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Cathedral parking lot when high-profile events at the high school call for it.
Still, other board members said that the district's shuttle service is not enough, especially Pantuso, who lives next to the high school and has seen firsthand what overflow parking has been like on the streets surrounding Baldwin High.
"We need to get our thinking caps on (in regard to parking)," Pantuso said while recognizing other board members' concerns about possibly damaging the field. "We need to have a plan for all of our large-capacity games," which he said includes marching band events as well as football games.
Pry added high school graduation and the Special Olympics to that list of high-profile events.
"There are a few occasions (that would call for) the right approvals," Pry said.
On Feb. 1, Fischer noted that many vehicles are ticketed by the Whitehall Police Department for illegally parking on streets near the high school during events.
Each school board member who voted to allow parking on the field agreed that it would only be allowed for a handful of times every year—Schmotzer estimated that number of times to be at around a half-dozen—and that parking would only be allowed when the field is dry and only when there is no rain in the forecast.
But after Wednesday's meeting, parking on the field is still a no-go, much to the delight of one district parent who attended the meeting in support of the ban.
"We spent $500,000 on that field," said Doug Higgins, of Overland Trail in south Baldwin Borough. "We hosted a (softball) tournament at the high school this (school) year. Many school districts were here. And that (field) is the pride of the WPIAL.
"So, thank you for voting 'no.' My girls play on that field."
Should the board reconsider, or were the school directors right to continue the ban? Tell us in the comments section below.
And check back with the Baldwin-Whitehall Patch later on Thursday for more odds and ends from Wednesday night's school board meeting.
Sign up for the daily Baldwin-Whitehall newsletter.