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John Lamb, Published December 19 2008

Overflow parking causes problems

‘Good fences make good neighbors,” Robert Frost once wrote in a poem.

More parking options could mend relations between two north Fargo neighbors.

The troublesome issue is overflow parking during extracurricular events at Oak Grove Lutheran School.

During Wednesday afternoon’s elementary Christmas concert, Mac Butler, who lives across the street and just to the west at 73 South Terrace, grew incensed by visitors parking in a clearly marked no-parking zone. There is no parking on the south side of South Terrace, which, like North Terrace, feeds into the Oak Grove campus.

Butler called Fargo police and reported people illegally parking. The police came, ticketed and left tow notices on offending cars.

Mission accomplished, right?

Not for the resident, who was annoyed again when he saw a school employee plucking tickets off the illegally parked cars.

Oak Grove President Bruce Messelt said the employee was acting on his orders. He said the school contacted the police department to see if it could pay the fines, just as the concert was starting.

“I made an announcement to the crowd and I said, ‘Please be aware of the situation and if you get a ticket, please bring it to me and we will handle it,’ ” Messelt said Thursday afternoon.

In all, 19 vehicles were ticketed at $15 apiece. Messelt said a “secret Santa” offered to pay the $285 bill.

But for Butler, the only thing he wants to see paid is attention – to the no-parking signs. When both sides of the street are filled, emergency vehicles could find it difficult maneuvering to come to the aid of someone like his wife, who has health issues.

He feels such violations are “arrogant” and that the school promotes such impropriety when they cover the “no parking” signs in black garbage bags for big events.

Messelt said in his year-and-a-half on the job, the school, with approval of the city, has done so twice, most recently for this fall’s homecoming.

“People who parked illegally got the big yellow or orange sticker and got the message. We did not sanction it and we did not want them there,” Messelt said.

But with so many parents and grandparents coming in to see the children perform, he decided to cover the fines.

“The last thing I would want them to feel was that there was a pall cast on the Christmas season unnecessarily,” Messelt said.

Messelt said he’s happy to talk to Butler and wants an open house for the newly opened Ellig Center for Health and Wellness for the neighbors.

Butler said he’s never contacted Messelt and that the president should be the one to reach out.

“I’m kind of expecting to be contacted by the president. I’ve never met him. I guess I can go over there and knock on his door, but it seems like the ball is in his court,” Butler said.

It may take some time before the frost melts between these two neighbors.

Readers can reach Forum columnist John Lamb at (701) 241-5533 or jlamb@forumcomm.com