The latest fallout from the Harford County public school system's changes to bus routes and school schedules involves the Bel Air Police Department giving out more than a dozen warnings to people illegally parked on a Gordon Street parking lot Wednesday.
Since the beginning of the school year, Bel Air Elementary School has seen an increase in parents driving their children to and from school, Bel Air Police Chief Leo Matrangola said. The changes, he said, is the result of the newly implemented school system bus regulations no longer provide bus service for students living within a one-mile radius of the school they attend.
He said officers issued about 15 warning letters Wednesday to people not authorized to park in the Gordon Street lot, which is next to Bel Air Elementary.
"We have a list of tag numbers of [vehicles] supposed to be there from the school," Matrangola said. "If they didn't belong there we gave them a warning, the next time they will get a $35 ticket."
According to Matrangola, the Gordon Street parking lot, which is owned by Harford County, can be used by people going to and from Bel Air Elementary School, according to a memorandum of understanding.
Harford County Public Schools Spokesperson Jillian Lader said Bel Air Elementary School employees and school visitors are allowed to park in the Gordon Street parking lot, but not the general public.
Matrangola said the elementary school and town of Bel Air have also encouraged parents to use the lot as a drop-off and pick-up spot for students at the school.
The Bel Air Board of Town Commissioners received several complaints during the school year relating to back-up traffic along Lee Street as parents were parking their vehicles to walk their children to the school.
Matrangola said having parents use the Gordon Street parking lot frees up traffic in front of the drop-off loop in front of the school building.
Unauthorized vehicles are not allowed to park in the Gordon Street parking lot because it becomes a liability for the county if an accident occurs, Matrangola said. He said it is also a use issue as about 100 parents are parking in the lot during pick-up and drop-off times.
"There are about 100 parents in the parking lot around after school," Matrangola said. "So we need to get that lot freed up to get the flow in and out."
Some authorized parkers were also hit with warnings from the police department Wednesday.
Amy Dykes, 24, a student teacher at Bel Air Elementary School, said she received a warning.
"As a student teacher at Bel Air Elementary School it would seem as though we would be able to park in that lot," said Dykes, who noted she was never asked to submit her vehicle's license plate number to the school's administration.
Dykes said the staff parking lot fills up pretty quickly and she was instructed to park on the Gordon Street lot.
According to Lader, the school system is working with the police department on a plan for parking at Bel Air Elementary School.
"We continue to work with the sheriff's department in an effort to develop a parking plan for the future," Lader said in a statement.