Debate continues on expanded parking at Milford High School

MILFORD – The issue of parking at Milford High School is back again this year with another proposal to expand available spaces.

Parking concerns came up at the Milford School Board’s deliberative session on Thursday, Feb. 6, in response to a proposal to add 40 parking spots at MHS. The warrant article asks voters for $50,506 to construct these spaces along the east side of the access road between the high school and Milford Middle School.

The board and school officials said that parking has always been an issue for both students and customers at the school’s student-run restaurant, Windows of West Street. MHS Principal Brad Craven said that he has clearly seen the problem since he started 33 years ago.

“The need for parking exists every day,” Craven said. “Kids need their cars for after-school activities.”

A proposal to raise $60,000 to purchase property at 90 West St. to supply additional parking was turned down by voters last year. Another proposal to raise $110,000 to construct parking space in that area was defeated in 2011.

The Advisory Budget Committee is unanimously against the proposal until more data is collected on the need for parking at the school. Committee member Joe Stella said that studies need to be done on the school’s parking, and any possible drainage issues a parking lot construction might bring.

“Nobody has brought in a real professional,” said committee member Joe Stella. “We don’t have an understanding of why” we need this.

Board Chairman Paul Dargie said that the proposal addresses drainage concerns, and may even improve these problems after construction.

Members of the committee were vocal on the fact that parking should be a privilege for students. Stella suggested alternative solutions, such as charging students for parking or reorganizing the space used for current parking. Committee member Rick Wood added that other parking solutions farther from the school should also be considered.

MHS teacher Jean Locicero Shankle was against the idea of the school charging students to park. She said that most students drive to school because they need to get to their after-school jobs, or get home to take care of serious family needs.

“Charging them will definitely be a hardship,” she said. They are “working for college and the clothes on their back.”

Another issue that came up at last week’s meeting was the inclusion of a school resource officer in the proposed operating budget. Some residents were skeptical of hiring a police officer for the school district, especially at the cost $63,074.

Superintendent Robert Suprenant said that additional measures need to be taken in light of recent tragedies in school. The police officer would focus on security, emergency management and truancy problems in the school district.

“We need to do all that we can to ensure the safety of our students,” Suprenant said.

This year’s school warrant also proposes taking $211,209 leftover from last year’s voter-approved bond for school improvements to provide a wireless access infrastructure in the school district and replace carpeting at the middle school. The money will be returned to taxpayers in two years if the proposal is turned down.

A collective bargaining agreement between the board and the Milford Administrative Group is also included with an increase of $923 in health insurance for the upcoming 2015 fiscal school year.

The Milford School Board presented a lower proposed operating budget at Thursday’s Deliberative Session based on recommendations from the Advisory Budget Committee. The final amount that will be on the ballot for voters is now $37,300,000, which is a reduction of $305,537 from the original proposed budget.

The Milford Town Vote will take place from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. March 11, in the Milford Middle School gymnasium.