NAPOLEON — The Napoleon Area Board of Education approved a pair of resolutions on Wednesday to move forward with Phase I of a six-phase parking improvement plan recently undertaken by Mannik and Smith Group (MSG) of Maumee.

The board was also given a COVID-19 update from superintendent Erik Belcher (see related story, page A9).

Cory Niekamp, business manager of Napoleon Area City Schools, presented the findings of the parking study undertaken by MSG at the October meeting of the board. At that time, Niekamp shared the first phase would be to increase parking at Buckenmeyer Stadium by removing the junior varsity softball field located there along Westmoreland Avenue to create an extra 165 parking spaces.

That plan included sidewalks that would cross Westmoreland and connect existing walkways. Access to the parking lot there would be moved south to line up with parking at the front of Napoleon Elementary School, and parking along Westmoreland (for any reason) would not be allowed.

Meanwhile, Phase II called for reorganizing the parking lot in front of the elementary school, including a plan to modify the layout so a fire lane not being used could be reworked. However the district now plans to keep the fire lane in place as it is, which is why it is seeking an alternate plan for that phase.

The district has budgeted a total of $700,000 with which to address the most pressing parking issues.

“Originally we emphasized Phase I, the Buckenmeyer Stadium lot, and Phase III, the cross-through path, but after talking to a lot of different groups, the biggest question we got was, why are we expanding the ‘Buck’ lot,” said Niekamp. “The main reason was because we’re shutting down parking along Westmoreland.”

Neikamp went on to explain that plans for Phase I have been simplified, and will include guard rails up along Westmoreland Avenue so parking along the street can’t happen; surfacing the Buckenmeyer Stadium lot to blacktop from stone; aligning crosswalks from the Buckenmeyer lot to Napoleon Elementary; and extending sidewalks from the Buckenmeyer lot to the bus garage.

As part of reworking the plan for Phase II, MSG will do an examination of the student drop-off and pick-up events at Napoleon Elementary, in order to develop concept plans for parking improvements. In addition, MSG will coordinate with the City of Napoleon, since proposed improvements will have an impact on public right-of-way and ultimately need city approval.

Alternate bids to expand parking at the ‘Buck’, and at the elementary school, will be part of the bid process.

The board approved a resolution authorizing Phase I and Phase II of the improvement project, authorizing MSG to proceed with the design of those phases. In addition, the board passed a professional services agreement for Phase I with MSG for parking improvements in the amount of $45,800.

“So to reiterate what Cory was saying, it’s going to be the ‘Buck’ lot that’s going to be paved; a guardrail will be installed along Westmoreland to the ‘Buck’ lot; there will be sidewalks on both sides of the street that will line up to connect the elementary parking lot and the ‘Buck’ lot with crosswalks,” said Belcher.

“The alternate bids that Mr. Niekamp was talking about would be if we choose to expand parking at the elementary school and the ‘Buck’ lot,” continued Belcher. “That would be to reroute the pick-up and drop-off at the elementary and expand the ‘Buck’ parking lot, if we choose to do so down the road.”

Niekamp and Belcher explained that approving the resolutions tonight keep the project on a timeline where it could be approved in early spring, with work beginning June 1, 2021, and ending Aug. 1, 2021.

At the October meeting, board member Michael Wesche and Nancy Bump, acting president of the Lady Cat Softball Club, each expressed concern about removing the JV softball field for additional parking.

Although a new kickball/baseball/softball field has been added behind the elementary school, having the junior varsity team play there presents other challenges, according to both Wesche and Bump.

Wesche expressed he was in favor of expanded parking at the elementary school in order to keep the JV field, while Bump shared that with no dugouts and no concessions at the elementary field, people would still have to cross Westmoreland Avenue during games, which would be a safety concern.

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