By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
SOUTHGATE – Off-street parking enforcement on trash days, originally implemented for street maintenance, before trucks with automated claw arms needed curbside access, was discussed at the May 4 City Council study session.
Councilmember Phil Rauch said that recently his trash wasn’t picked up because someone was parked in front of his house, which also caused the city’s street sweeper to bypass a six-house section of road.
He said that while ordinance signs prohibit street parking on trash days from noon to 4 p.m., he thinks the council should consider extending the off-street parking hours so the waste removal trucks with the automatic claw arms for bins have curb access for bin pickup, which would improve street sweeper access as well.
“We are never going to make everybody happy, obviously,” he said. “But I think it is something as a council that we really need to look at.”
Rauch said the street sweepers must be frustrated as well.
“When you go through and hit six houses in a row that you can’t even clean the street, then the next time he goes back, it’s going to get worse if there is rain or whatever, because it’s all going to be clogged up,” he said. “I think it is something that we should at least discuss.”
City Administrator Dustin Lent said city officials has reach out to waste disposal vendor GFL, and has had meetings with them about enforcing off-street parking, as it is an issue with them as well.
“It does make their job more difficult obviously if they don’t see it,” he said. “They have to go back if a car was parked in front of it.
“Obviously, they are our vendor, and we make our own ordinances, and they will work around our ordinance, but they would prefer that we did not have parking on the streets, because it does make their jobs easier.”
Lent said GFL’s job is a lot more challenging when its crews have to maneuver around vehicles.
He said the city’s street sweepers and the Department of Public Works would also prefer to have off-street parking enforcement on the trash collection day, as well.
Lent said trash pickups and street sweeping missed because of vehicles parking on the street is probably the most frequent complaint that his office hears.
“This is a continuous concern with many of our residents,” he said. “But I understand, if this gets changed, it is going to be a concern the other way, as well.”
Councilmember Mark Farrah said that during his 25 years in the Police Department, the ordinance has fluctuated between 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and from noon to 4 p.m.
“It’s a no-win situation, no matter where you put it,” he said. “Our officers are out there, and the most contentious ticket you can write is a parking ticket.”
Farrah said people understand being ticketed for a traffic violation like running a red light or speeding, but they feel that their car parked in front of their house is harmless.
“It doesn’t matter which way you do it, if our equipment or our trucks are running in the morning, it makes more sense to be in the morning,” he said. “I can tell you also that there are going to be a lot more violators in the morning, because at 7 a.m., there are a lot more people that haven’t left their home yet, as compared to between noon and 4.”
Farrah said that twice as many parking violation tickets will be issued in the morning than in the afternoon.
He said he doesn’t object to changing the ordinance to require off-street parking on the morning of trash pickup days, and he understands the need, but the rule will not prevent people from parking in the street.
Councilmember Karen George said it upsets her that vehicles parked on the street in the morning prevent the street sweeper from cleaning on her block and clearing debris from the storm water drains.
Mayor Joseph Kuspa said GFL will be amenable with the decision council’s decision, and the city will enforce the council’s off-street parking provision on trash days.
“You are never going to satisfy GFL total hours, too, because they are out there, sometimes, at 6, 7 at night, when they have three different pickups with the yard waste and the bulk pickup and the recyclables – four with the regular trash,” he said. “The issue just becomes is this a time to re-look at that ordinance? That probably hasn’t been looked at in 15, 20 years.”
Kuspa suggested putting the topic on the next work study session, with information on how neighboring communities approach off-street parking provided.
He said they will also calculate a cost estimate to re-sticker all the signs which have the off-street parking information on them.
“DPS workers have to get those hundreds and hundreds of signs re-stickered,” Kuspa said. “That is minor, but you should know that.”
Farrah said the origin of the ordinance has nothing to do with picking up trash.
“The ordinance is strictly city street maintenance,” he said. “It was only enacted in coordination with the trash days in those neighborhoods so that it was easier for people to remember.
“This isn’t about getting your trash picked up or not picked up – this is about the city maintaining our roadways.”
Lent reiterated that, currently, the city’s neighborhoods have no street parking from noon to 4 p.m. on their trash day.
Councilmember Bill Colovos said that before the waste haulers had automatic trash bin pickup arms on the truck, they would dump the bins into a waste truck by hand.
“When that was going on, which was not too long ago, it was easier going down the street to pick up garbage because you could walk between the cars in the street,” he said. “And now, with the latest trash pickup I can understand the problem.”
Colovos said if street parking is going to be banned on trash days to help the waste vendor, then parking should be forbidden the entire time the trucks are out, perhaps from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. He noted that exemptions could be granted for residents who do not have sufficient off street parking for all of their vehicles.