Council responds to parking complaints

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 13, 2001

Residents along two narrow Albert Lea streets hope the latest round of parking policies will solve traffic and snow removal problems.

Tuesday, February 13, 2001

Residents along two narrow Albert Lea streets hope the latest round of parking policies will solve traffic and snow removal problems.

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The city council enacted new parking restrictions Monday on West William Street and Harriet Lane, both narrow streets causing headaches for residents, drivers and plow operators.

Harriet Lane, a narrow sloping street with a dead end, is sometimes too congested with parked vehicles for plow access, said resident Mike Murtaugh. He favors a no parking designation for both sides of the street during the winter months.

&uot;I’ve tried to make some of efforts to get the property owners to get cars off the street voluntarily so the street can get plowed,&uot; said Murtaugh. &uot;I sent a letter out to all of our neighbors the beginning of January. I guess I haven’t seen an improvement.&uot;

Murtaugh asked if towing would be the penalty for ignoring the restrictions. Sparks told him the city makes an effort to contact vehicle owners before towing. If those efforts are unsuccessful, the vehicle is be towed.

Murtaugh said he regrets that restrictions are necessary to fix the problem. &uot;If we can’t police ourselves, then I guess the next step is for the council to consider this option,&uot; Murtaugh said.

City Manager Paul Sparks said the narrowness of Harriet Lane sometimes causes plow drivers to bypass the street, delays snow removal for two days or more.

&uot;It’s very narrow, and when cars park on one side or both sides, we have trouble getting a plow truck down there without running into a car,&uot; Sparks said. &uot;I suppose this has been a particularly aggravating winter because we’ve had a lot of snow. This would allow us to at least try to plow it the first day.&uot;

After some discussion about how to post the signs, the council agreed to the no parking restriction for the balance of the winter. According to Sparks, if the new restrictions work, the measure would stand for next winter from Dec. 1 through March 31.

In the case of West William Street, the narrow street is causing difficulties for semi-truck access to Arrow Printing. Owner Curtis Smith said the no parking designation, enacted last month, is solving the problem.

&uot;We really appreciate the city and the residents because (the new restrictions) are helping the situation. Our semi delivery in the mornings has been a big problem,&uot; Smith said.

But resident Tracy Reitveld said she will have no place to park if the restriction remains in place because she has no driveway. She said she prefers to park her car in a place on the street where it is visible from the window of her home.

&uot;Right now I’m still parking in front of my house. I’m parking illegally,&uot; Reitveld said. &uot;I talked to the police department, and they said they would give us leniency until we figure this out.&uot;

Councilor David McPherson proposed a compromise that would allow parking on the north side of W. William for half of the street, allowing Reitveld to park in front of her neighbor. Smith said the plan would work out perfectly for his business.

The council unanimously approved the compromise.

In other city council news:

* The Skate Park Association, represented by Tony Samudio, requested a workshop with council members to discuss the future of the skate park project, particularly the location. Samudio said the association recently elected officers, organized into committees, and has raised more than $40,000.

Sparks agreed to schedule a workshop with the association.

* The council agreed to begin a new sharing contract with two towing companies for the city’s non-consensual tows. Beginning March 1, Tow-n-Travel and A&A Express Towing will alternate weeks working with the police department’s non-consensual tows. Though the contract has historically been awarded to only one company, federal intrastate commerce statutes and a trend of lawsuits in other cities prompted the council to try the shared agreement.

* The council approved a change in the basic contract with the Family Services Cooperative, which allowed the organization to apply for a children’s mental health grant. The contract change gives the agency the license to act as a Children’s Mental Health Collaborative, a designation that gives it access to $120,000 over a two-year period.

* The council voted to revise the city’s low-income assessment and utility billing policy, which allows low-income residents to defer assessments. The fixed costs on utility bills are eligible for a waiver. The new income guideline is $15,500 for a single individual and $1,500 for each additional person.

* The council passed a $16,000 addition to the library budget for 2001 to allow for outreach services to under-served rural populations. The money comes from savings from the elimination of the Bookmobile program.

* The council approved the northeast area overlay project over the objections of resident Frank O’Brien, who was concerned about the assessments and the need for the project on one street, Columbus Avenue.