- Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 May 2010 15:00
- Published on Wednesday, 05 May 2010 15:00
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It appears that Mayor Rummage overstepped his authority this past weekend, telling visitors they were allowed to park in the grass on Town Hill if they were patronizing Riverboat Restaurant. This resulted in several tickets being issued and many citizen complaints. Now Town Manager Val Foulds has issued a statement suspending the collection of tickets issued for parking on Town Hill until the matter could be investigated more closely.
A statement from council member Karen Payne said she discovered the mayor’s actions saying, “Unfortunately the mayor was under the impression that he had the authority to direct the Police Department not to enforce the new law.”
The new law Payne refers to is a parking ordinance that is the result of more than a year of council listening and responding to residents’ requests to make visitors pay for their messes.
“The new Parking Ordinance was passed by everyone on council after more than a year’s discussion and public hearings,” Payne said. “The council was responding to an overwhelming number of comments from citizens complaining about ‘freeloaders’ who were coming into town, leaving their trash behind, and not spending any money in the town. This costs the town citizens in police enforcement and Public Works trash pickup costs, to name just a few of the problems.”
In an e-mail to The Journal, Mayor Rummage said, “Town Hill has always been used as overflow parking from Riverboat. Until the Town Council decides when the summer season begins and ends, such parking should be permitted. I tried to accomplish that on Kentucky Derby Day, but was overruled. The council has much work to do about parking generally — the sooner the better.”
Police Chief Christopher Hawkins responded to complaints, explaining that “the town manager is given the authority by ordinance to regulate parking. We are the enforcement arm of any policy that is put into place.”
In the April 21 edition, The Journal ran a front page notice informing the town that decals were due on the windshields by April 30, and that the police intended to start ticketing for failure to display decals starting May 1.
Enforcing the parking ordinance came more than a month late, according to a statement from Town Manager Val Foulds early Monday morning.
“The new Parking Ordinance authorizes us to implement the parking rules starting April 1 of each year. We were already a month behind, and I received several calls asking about when the town was going to do what it says in the ordinance.”
Foulds further stated that staff spoke to the local business owners impacted (or their representatives) in the vicinity explaining that the parking enforcement would be starting as early as last Tuesday, notifying them of the changes.
Payne’s response also mentioned discussing the issue with local business owners saying, “In an attempt to offset some of the costs of maintaining the beaches, council approved new parking fees. Again, this was discussed on numerous occasions, and a public hearing was held. Further, an attempt was made to discuss this with business owners prior to this weekend, including the owners of the Riverboat and High Tides. It is my understanding that these business owners, while perhaps not happy with the ordinance, were accepting of this change. In fact, one other business owner even requested, prior to this weekend, to have reserved parking in one of the lots. Somehow he knew about it — why are so many others claiming ignorance? The idea that this was done secretly or for malicious purposes is downright wrong.”
Foulds assumed there would be some problems this spring, recalling last summer’s issues.
“We had a similar problem with changing habits and behaviors at Castlewood Park,” she said. “Instituting paid parking and placing attendants there helped to turn around a situation that had gone out of control. That too started with a lot of heartburn. We will continue to monitor our activities with an eye on making as many people as happy as we can. There are always growing pains.”
Payne said: “The revenue from the parking fees helped offset the reduction in revenue for Fiscal Year 2010/2011. Partially because of these fees, tax rates are proposed to remain stable — in other words, no tax increase. If the parking fees are halted, we will have to raise revenue from other sources or cut services. Please note that next year’s budget has already been cut by approximately 3 percent. Town staff is down to bare bones on operating costs.”
By Monday evening letters of discontent and phone calls to officials reached epic proportions, which led to Payne making her statement to The Journal saying she supported the Town Manager.
“I am stating now, publicly and as strongly as possible, that the Town Manager, Val Foulds, has nothing but the best interest of the Town at heart, and was merely doing her job as directed by town council,” Payne said.
Foulds issued an official statement saying “given the manner in which I am advised that the parking regulations were enforced in the area surrounding Town Hill, I am requesting that the Police Chief suspend the requirement of payment of any and all fines for parking violations which were issued on or after Friday, April 30 by his officers in the area surrounding Town Hill.”
The statement continues to say, “Until such time as the Chief and I are able to complete an evaluation of the events of last weekend with respect to the area around Town Hill, it is my belief that there should be no parking fines collected from violations in the area around Town Hill.”