PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Ordinance and Rules Subcommittee tabled a parking amendment for alternate side parking to gather more information.
The committee members voted Wednesday at the end of a lengthy discussion to continue their meeting until next month to further specify the ordinance change.
"I think we do want to get this in order very soon and I don't want to delay this," Councilor at Large Earl Persip III said. "I really like it. I just think we have some holes that need to be filled and I think gathering some more information will be the next step."
Alternate-side parking came before the City Council earlier this year through a petition. It was sent to the Traffic Commission, which referred it to the public services commissioner for further review in March.
Alternate-side parking is a traffic law that dictates which side of a street cars can be parked on a given day. Its proponents say it allows for more efficient seasonal cleanup and can improve better traffic flow.
The City Council voted in July to send the proposed ordinance to Ordinance and Rules
The proposed ordinance would affect Zoning districts R-M, B-G, and B-D. They would use alternate side parking, which means all vehicles would be parked only on the even-numbered side of the street on even-numbered calendar days, and only on the odd side of the street on odd-numbered calendar days.
This would apply from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. from Dec. 1 to March 31
"Having some sort of measure to provide equitable parking for everyone in the city is important and I think we are taking the right steps towards that," Commissioner of Public Services Ricardo Morales said. "What we are discussing today may not be the end result but I think we are taking some very important steps to get there."
Morales said currently snow plowing in densely populated areas is unmanageable with cars on both sides of the street.
"It is to the point where we cannot correctly snow plow when there is a snow event using contractors or our own employees," he said. "We are getting to the point where we have to weave and out of certain streets."
He said alternate side really just organizes parking and makes it enforceable. Currently, many residents do not have off-street parking and he felt it was unfair to penalize them when there is no other option.
Morales said alternate-side parking should also save the city money. With both contractors and city employees able to cleanly make their routes optimally in two runs they will be out driving less. This of course means less overtime.
One of the first questions came from Persip, who felt the time from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. was not realistic.
"I think these times are kind of important so they are going to have to be realistic," Persip said. "Most people are in bed by 11 and if I don't go to work until 9 I am not going to run out at 7 to move my car."
Morales said this time frame is unchanged from the current ordinance and agreed that it could create complications.
"The more I see it the more I see the holes in it in terms of the timing," he said.
He noted that many communities use alternate side parking with this time frame and it was worth researching further.
Enforcement was Persip's other concern and he said the ordinance will not work if it is not properly enforced.
"We need to ticket and tow and we really need to hold their feet to the fire or I don't think this will be successful," he said.
Some of the councilors felt it was still a good first because it still gave residents the ability to not break the law. Now they have no other option but to park
Persip felt enforcement would be an issue with police officers already stretched thin. Morales added that there is an overtime cost attributed to bringing an officer along to write tickets during plow runs.
Morales said they can consider giving a city employee this responsibly. Preferably someone who is typically already out plowing or out for quality assurance reasons. However, it wasn't clear who had the ability to ticket.
The only certainty was that city employees could call for a tow truck.
It was agreed that this may be harsh an important step in ensuring that people follow the rules.
Morales said he would look into it and suggested the parking enforcement agent may be an option with the ability to write tickets.
Morales first said he did not anticipate installing signage because of the cost but Persip said he would not support the ordinance without it.
Morales said they may be able to tap the winter maintenance fund or even free cash for signage. He said he would calculate this amount for a future meeting.
Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Maffuccio supported tabling the ordinance but still preferred it to go to Public Works subcommittee for another review
"You have more ward councilors sitting on the committee who know their areas and their districts," he said. "There are a lot of questions."
Ward 3 Councilor Nicholas Caccamo, chairman of the committee, said this is still a possibility and, after the eventual discussion during City Council, they can vote to kick it to another subcommittee. Caccamo said he was OK with this but only if the meeting happened in a timely manner.
"We want to have this in place so we can have the lead time to prepare so we can notify the public," he said. "I don't want to see this sit in public works."
This was one of Persip's final concerns and he wanted the ordinance to clearly state how the public would be informed. He thought they need to form a robust education plan that goes beyond posting on the city website and sending out a mailer.
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