Hazleton To Decide Soon On Reserved Parking Program’s Feasibility

January 2, 2019

A reserved parking program in Hazleton will be the subject of a council work session next week, even though the mayor believes the proposal might stall before the governing body. After receiving about 40 applications and “numerous” phone calls from residents who are interested in the program, Mayor Jeff Cusat said Monday that he’ll discuss with council whether the proposal will become reality Jan. 9. While council members said they’re waiting for Cusat to report on the response he received from the public before deciding whether to move forward with the program, Cusat expressed doubts based on early feedback he received some members of council. “It seems that in talking to council that they’re not too excited about moving it forward,” Cusat said. Details haven’t been finalized, but Cusat said the program would give homeowners the ability to reserve an on-street parking space for $10 per month. The program is open to property owners, not tenants. The program generated mixed views from the public, as some residents have asked how the snow-parking ban will impact the program, how the city will grant spaces to people who live in corner homes or areas where parking is not permitted at any time and who will enforce the program if an unauthorized vehicle is parked in a reserved space. In late October, council authorized the mayor to gauge public interest through Dec. 31, Cusat said. He said Monday that he’ll continue accepting phone calls and social media inquiries — and would be willing to complete applications by phone for people who can’t get to City Hall. The city began accepting deposits in October, with Cusat saying deposit checks would be returned if the program does not materialize. Deposits are no longer necessary, Cusat said Monday. He’ll relay the response to council members at a work session following the Jan. 9 regular council meeting. Council would enact an ordinance only if the city charges a fee. Rules and regulations will be listed in the ordinance, Cusat said. Mixed views All five council members said Monday that they want to hear the mayor’s report on public response before making a decision. Most say they want assurances that the program will generate enough revenue to cover costs of implementing and enforcing the program. “There’s pros and cons on both sides,” council President Robert Gavio said. “You have the enforcement part and signs all over the place but on the other side, we are cash-strapped. If there’s not a lot (of interest) it’s not worth doing it.” Gavio said he understands why people who live in congested areas of the city would favor the program, but said other people might not want to pay $120 to reserve a space when they see neighbors using chairs to illegally reserve spots over the winter. Councilman Jim Perry said the city might get a better handle on interest after some residents see the reserved on-street space signs posted at neighboring homes. Perry, however, asked how many people would have to participate to make the program worth pursuing. “I know what (the mayor) is trying to do and I think it’s a great idea,” Perry said. “I kind of have mixed feelings. The income maybe is not worth the effort.” Perry said some communities issue tags at no cost that allow residents to park in certain areas. Hazleton might benefit from a similar program, he said. Vice President Allison Barletta said the program might not be cost effective, particularly since an estimated 40 applications have been filed as of Monday. Barletta believes the program would strain what she termed an already understaffed and overworked police department, and said she heard from residents who would be interested only if they can keep vehicles in reserved spaces when the snow-parking ban is enacted. “I am happy we gave the residents a chance to voice what they want,” Barletta said. “Some residents that I spoke to only wanted it if they can park in their spot during the snow ban so they wouldn’t have to move their car and the spot they shoveled would be open to them, which that wouldn’t be possible.” Councilwoman Jean Mope said she’d base her vote on the response from the community. Mope, however, said most of the people she heard were opposed to the program. “They think it’s a crazy idea to be perfectly honest,” Mope said. “It might be beneficial for a few but might not benefit the entire city. We have to do what’s in the best interest of the entire city.” Councilman Tony Colombo said the program merits further evaluation. “I still think it really needs to be looked at a lot further,” he said. “You have good points and bad points. How are we going to enforce it? The problem is, there’s just so many cars. It’s a tough nut to crack.” Cusat believes the program has merit. “We all know how much it hurts to go out there and either pay to have (a space) shoveled or pay to have a spot plowed and the neighbor takes it,” Cusat said. “There’s more vehicles in the world now than ever. I don’t want to see my residents getting into fights and arguments over spaces. If this doesn’t work, I’m hoping that city council works with me in coming up with other ideas.” The regular council meeting will be held 6 p.m. Jan. 9 at city hall. A work session will follow. Contact the writer: sgalski@standardspeaker.com; 570-501-3586

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