City turns up heat on snow emergency parking violators

January 22, 2019

STERLING – Winter has shifted into peak snow and ice mode and the city warns that citizens who don’t abide by its snow emergency parking regulations – which are in effect as of today’s winter squall – soon could be digging deeper into their pockets.

The city also declared a snow emergency at 3 p.m. Friday that wasn’t lifted until 10 a.m. Sunday. Cars parked on snow routes and on the wrong side of other streets made it much more difficult for city workers to clear the snow in a timely fashion.

The first rule during a snow emergency is that there is to be no parking on the 26 emergency snow routes in town until all snow has been removed from those areas. Those major arteries, the city’s first cleanup priority, are designated by blue and white snow route signs.

The second rule during a snow emergency is no parking in the Central Business District or in city lots from 1:30 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. while those areas are being addressed.

The source of most of the city’s frustration, however, is the number of violators on the other city streets. Too many residents are ignoring the odd and even parking restrictions in effect during snow emergencies.

On odd-numbered days of the month, parking is on the odd-numbered address side of the street; on even-numbered days, parking is on the even-numbered side of the street. A new parking day begins between 6 and 8 a.m., and during that time, no tickets will be issued.

The parking restrictions end when either the snow stops and all snow has been removed from a street, or when the city officially cancels its weather emergency.

The City Council discussed the problem, particularly the odd and even parking restrictions, again Monday, and it was apparent that patience was wearing thin.

“As long as you’re ready to take the heat and the phone calls, there are a lot of things we can do,” Mayor Skip Lee told the council.

The two most obvious solutions will hit violators in the pocketbook. Some officials contend that the $20 ticket now issued for parking noncompliance isn’t enough of a deterrent.

“My kids live in Chicago, and the fines are much higher there [$60] for snow parking violations,” First Ward Alderwoman Retha Elston said. “I think it would help if we raised the fees for these tickets.”

The fees now in place increase if the ticket isn’t paid within 30 days.

The council also is considering increasing the frequency in which vehicles are towed. In addition to paying the parking ticket, violators must come up with $75 to $150 for the tow depending on which business is used. The tow can get more expensive if the vehicle isn’t picked up in a timely fashion.

“It can sometimes take awhile for the tow trucks to get there, so while it might not help the plows on that day, it could serve as a deterrent,” City Manager Scott Shumard said.

The city figures that giving the tow trucks more regular business could give them an incentive to speed up response times.

Public Works is having the most difficulty with several avenues, such as Fourth, which tend to be narrower. Add to the mix several apartment buildings with no off-street parking, and the emergency parking rules become even more important.

Those areas, some with parking on only one side of the street, can make it difficult for residents to comply. Other residents complain about being plowed in by the city, but officials aren’t sympathetic to their plight, as illustrated by a recent response to a citizen’s complaint on the city’s Facebook page:

“Odd/even isn’t designed to prevent you from getting plowed in. The intent of odd/even is to completely clear one side of the road all the way to the curb so that after 2 days, the roads are back to full width to accommodate travel and parking. Unfortunately, there’s no good way to prevent cars from being blocked in while still getting through the whole city in a timely fashion.”

The council will continue to discuss the situation and should be ready to take action soon.

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