New traffic patterns and increased enforcement of parking infractions soon will go into effect at Whitehall-Yearling High School, 675 S. Yearling Road.
A proposed Whitehall City Council ordinance will give police the expanded authority to ticket and, if necessary, tow vehicles parked in fire lanes at the new high school, which opened in August.
The ordinance was introduced Jan. 28 during committee meetings and was scheduled for a first reading and emergency passage at the council meeting set Tuesday, Feb. 4.
Dave Hausmann, director of operations for Whitehall schools, said he appealed to the city for assistance in enforcement after witnessing parking patterns at the high school that threatened public safety.
Fire lanes were not delineated at either the old school or new school, Hausmann said, but fire-lane blocking was not a problem at the former high school.
Unlike the old school, which had a small number of pull-in spots in the front, the new school has one lane along the entire front of the building, as well as lanes along the north and south sides of the building that lead to a parking lot and athletics fields behind the school.
"Everyone parks in the lane in front of the school, on both sides, as well as both sides on the lanes alongside the schools," said Hausmann, who surveyed parking at a recent basketball game.
"We would not be able to get emergency equipment back there if a player or spectator were injured."
Whitehall Service Director Ray Ogden said he drafted the ordinance after school officials voiced concerns about visitors blocking fire lanes at the school, particularly at athletics events in the evening, when parking accommodations are stretched.
The proposed ordinance amends the city's traffic code by placing the fire lanes at Whitehall-Yearling High School, which is private property, under the purview of the city, empowering police to issue citations and impound vehicles.
"The schools asked the city (to amend the code) to address the problem," Whitehall Fire Chief Preston Moore said.
"It all stemmed from a safety issue," said Hausmann, adding the policy is specific to Whitehall-Yearling High School.
"We just aren't seeing these problems (at Rosemore Middle School and the three elementary schools)," Hausmann said. "If we have to address it at our other schools, we will do so."
A combination of pavement markings and signs will be erected at the high school to notify visitors of the fire lanes if the ordinance is approved and weather permits, Hausmann said.
Councilman Wes Kantor, a member of the safety committee, said he concurs with the policy.
"It's a fire lane and you can't camp out there," Kantor said.
In addition to stepped-up enforcement, Hausmann said, new traffic patterns will go into effect at the school in conjunction with the posting of fire lanes.
Traffic will be one-way along the north side of the school into the parking lot, and one-way out along the south side of the building from the parking lot toward North Yearling Road.
More significantly, no vehicles will be permitted to turn left onto North Yearling Road. Motorists must turn right from the high school and head south on North Yearling Road, using Wright Avenue to make a loop if necessary, Hausmann said.