Police chief enters parking discussion
DAVE MOSIER/independent editor
The debate continues over what to do about downtown parking violators, this time with Van Wert Police Chief Joel Hammond providing his input on the discussion.
The police chief attended Monday night’s meeting of Van Wert City Council’s Streets and Alleys Committee, and talked about setting law enforcement priorities for the city.
“What’s the goal? What’s our end objective? What are we trying to accomplish?” Chief Hammond asked committee members, noting that, currently, proactive drug and alcohol and serious criminal activity enforcement takes precedence in his department, leaving little in the way of manpower and budget funds available for downtown parking enforcement.
The police chief also indicated he didn’t think downtown parking was a big priority in the first place.
“From my casual observation … there seems to be parking through the downtown area,” Chief Hammond said. “My initial knee-jerk reaction with this is, to put a sworn law enforcement officer down there to enforce ongoing traffic enforcement in that area for parking enforcement, I think would be not a good use of our resources, given the current climate that we’re facing as a city.”
The police chief said the biggest problem is his short-staffed and underfunded department, which is operating at staffing levels that Chief Hammond said were available when he became chief more than a decade ago. He did note, though, that hitting chronic violators would be easier than wholesale parking enforcement.
Both Streets and Alleys Committee Chair Pete Weir and Main Street Downtown Interim Project Manager Adam Ries talked about the economic impact on the downtown area from persistent two-hour parking violators.
“Generating revenue is a top priority,” Weir told the police chief, adding that calculations he has done on the impact of the 40 chronic two-hour parking violators in the downtown area comes to more than $800,000 annually, operating on the premise that shoppers would spend just $5 in a half-hour at downtown stores.
Part of the problem with downtown parking, as noted by Delphos Safety-Service Director Greg Berquist, who also attended the meeting to provide input from that city on downtown parking, is the dichotomy between perception and reality.
Berquist noted that, usually, the biggest offenders when it comes to downtown parking are employees of downtown businesses themselves. The Delphos city official also noted that those who shop in a downtown area get discouraged if they can’t park directly in front of the business they want to patronize, but have no problem walking much further to shop at a strip mall.
“It is a dynamic that (has) no solution,” Berquist said, while also noted that Delphos police do handle downtown parking issues when there is a complaint.
The Delphos safety-service director also noted that, if customers get tickets, that could also negatively affect downtown shopping.
Also Monday, City Council introduced several measures related to junk/trash enforcement — another long-term city problem — and also discussed another parking problem related to whether parking should be moved from the west side of the street to the east side, largely because there is one residence on the west side that has no driveway and has no space to install one.
Council also approved a then-and-now certificate and approved a resolution to participate in a Moving Forward Ohio grant given to the county for demolition of derelict buildings.
Mayor Don Farmer said he hopes to demolish 12-15 buildings using grant money and Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds, starting with a house on North Wayne Street on which demolition will begin this morning.
In other legislative action, City Council approved a resolution to seek clarification on who will receive casino revenues and an ordinance allowing Safety-Service Director Jay Fleming, who was on vacation this week, to seek bids and award contracts for street painting projects.
Water and Sewer Committee Chair Brent Crone also noted that city water/sewer customers are still forgetting to bring in their entire water bills when paying at the Municipal Building, causing problems for Water Office clerks.
Van Wert Solid Waste Management District Director George Brake also attended the Council meeting and made a plea that city residents use a two-bin recycling system that would separate “fiber” recyclables (paper, cardboard, newspapers, etc.) from plastic, glass and metal recyclables. Brake said all city residents are allocated two bins, noting that those who don’t have a second bin can come to the recycling center on North Washington Street to get one.
Mayor Farmer also noted that city residents should have gotten electric aggregation letters in the mail, adding that those who want to participate in the program need do nothing to be signed up. Anyone with questions should call FirstEnergy Solutions at 866.636.3749.