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Jeannette council discusses parking issues throughout city

| Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Gino Ori, of Signature Control Systems, talks to Jeannette City Council members and residents about digital parking meter options the city could implement. Kristie Linden | The Jeannette Spirit

Jeannette City Council has been considering solutions to the city's on- and off-street parking problems for several months and in at least one area targeted enforcement has begun.

Parking issues in the city range from vehicles parked on the wrong side of the street facing oncoming traffic to vehicles that are parked on top of sidewalks. Council has also dealt with decisions to bag city parking meters and to make parking in the Magee Avenue lot free.

Mayor Robert Carter and Police Chief Brad Shepler have discussed the wrong-way parking issues and various other parking offenses at council meetings for several months. Beginning last year, Carter started warning residents who were used to parking on the street facing the wrong direction that police were about to start ticketing those violations.

Soon after the tickets began landing on cars throughout the city, Carter and Shepler said they received complaints from residents. To be clear, Shepler said, though the targeted enforcement may be new, the parking laws refer to the state vehicle code and parking against traffic is illegal throughout the state.

Shepler said some people who have received tickets have not paid them in a timely manner and warns residents that unpaid tickets will be referred to District Judge Joseph DeMarchis and then the price goes up.

“The fine on wrong-way parking (against traffic) is up to $15 in the vehicle code. If a city ticket is paid, it stays at $15. If it is not paid and a citation is filed at the magistrate, in addition to a fine of up to $15, there are court costs of $37,” Shepler said.

Carter said the targeted enforcement is in response to several accidents caused by both drivers trying to pull across a street to park against traffic and by drivers pulling out of a parking spot and crossing traffic. Carter said in addition to the three or four accidents that were reported, he's been told of several near misses and he is concerned that someone is going to get hurt in such an accident.

Shepler said all vehicle code parking violations are being targeted.

Councilman Mark Levander brought Signature Control, a parking meter company, to a council meeting to demonstrate a computerized machine that could be operated at the Magee Avenue parking lot as a way of returning some of the parking revenue back to the city coffers.

The lot was made free last year after the lot attendants were laid off. Shortly thereafter, council also made the decision to bag all city parking meters, lay off the meter attendants and to make parking free city-wide.

The decisions have been met with some praise from business owners who appreciate the free parking for their customers and some negative comments from residents who want the cash-strapped city to begin bringing in the parking revenue once again.

Gino Ori and Doug Lape of Signature Control, the parking company, told council members there are a variety of computerized devices to choose from — including a gate device with a mechanical arm that would block drivers from exiting the parking lot without first paying the parking rate to devices that could be used on city streets as parking meters that would print tickets drivers would place on their windshields.

Ori said the machines are virtually vandalism-proof and can be updated over time to include more options for payment. Street parking meters cost in the range of $14,000, but Ori and Lape said the company could split revenues with the city to pay the machines off rather than requiring up-front payment.

Ori said if over a certain amount of time the city hadn't earned enough parking revenue to pay off the machine, the company could buy the equipment back from the city.

“We've always made money over the years (from parking meters), we need to get back to that,” Councilman Mark Clark said.

Levander said he is not opposed to looking at bringing back the paid street meters, but wants to make sure it's worth the city's while to do so.

Kristie Linden is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at klinden@tribweb.com or 724-838-5154.

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