Efforts to remedy parking problem at NCES pick up speed
NORTH CANAAN — Things are getting better with illegal (and inconsiderate) parking around North Canaan Elementary School, thanks to physical restrictions and reminders that caution is required in a school zone.The Board of Selectmen is now stepping in to create and enforce clearer directives. Some of the changes already made include the relocation of the entrance to the neighboring Town Hall parking lot, so drivers can no longer cut across the pedestrian crosswalk. New signage makes it clear the street is one-way for an hour twice a day, during student arrival and dismissal times. But a small group of drivers including some parents and members of school staff and the school board are continuing to bend or break the rules.A memo was recently distributed by Principal Rosemary Keilty to faculty and staff, reminding them of the one-way designation on Pease Street. Some teachers park in the lot across from the main entrance of the school. A large sign indicating the law and the times the one-way designation is in effect is directly across from the driveway. Yet, some continue to leave (before 3:30 p.m.) going the wrong way.School and town officials have blamed the continuing problems on the large amount of traffic that comes through that small area for both school and Town Hall business. School buses, delivery trucks and passenger cars use the same limited access, often during narrow windows of time. Perhaps the biggest problem is drivers who insist on parking illegally up and down Pease Street. For events that attract a large crowd, the street can quickly narrow down to one lane. Yet all along the street, and down the access road to the back of the school, “No Parking, Fire Lane” signs have been in place for decades. The signs, aimed at ensuring access for emergency vehicles, are often ignored. Since the issues were brought to their attention, many school board members have promoted being mindful of the law. But some appear unmindful of the law or potential danger of illegal parking. There was at least one violator on the night of the last school board meeting.That potential was recently brought to light when an ambulance was called to the school for a student injured in a basketball game. Reports about the situation that ensued differ. The main circle, designated as off limits for parking except for two handicapped spaces, was said to be clogged with cars, as is usual during an event in the gym.First Selectman Charlie Perotti said he was the one to placed the 911 call that day. He then went outside to make sure the main driveway was clear. He said the only vehicles were cars parked in the two handicapped spots. Two parents also pulled in to pick up their children. Otherwise the circle was clear and the ambulance had no access problems.The selectmen said they would confer with Resident State Trooper Jim Promotico. His office at Town Hall overlooks the problem area, but the board said he has been working nights, putting efforts into drug trafficking in town. They agreed that the traffic issues, while they may not seem as serious, put children at risk and need to be addressed.