With a second major winter storm in three days expected to wallop the region starting tonight, Red Bank officials have amped up their enforcement of street-parking rules and snow-removal laws, they say.
More than at any time in the past two decades, the public works and police departments are coordinating their efforts to clear borough streets and parking lots of snow, officials say. And that could mean more tickets, they warn.
“We really don’t bother people about parking on the streets” when it snows, says Councilwoman Sharon Lee. “But it’s gotten to the point where it has not paid for us to be pliable.”
At issue, officials say, are safety concerns and the ire of residents who clear their driveways, only to have them buried anew because of re-plowing necessitated by others who leave their vehicles on the street during storms.
But the whopper concern is cost, driven by overtime pay for borough employees having to repeat their efforts to accommodate motorists who leave their cars on the street during storms, says public uilities director Gary Watson.
“We’re talking money,” he says.
He says the breaking point was reached with the storm of December 19-20, which dumped about 15 inches of snow overnight starting on a Saturday night, when restaurants and bars were open downtown. Many patrons left their cars in the English Plaza municipal lot for several days, requiring repeated trips by snowplows to clear the hard-to-navigate facility.
“That was the one that kind of made us all say, ‘enough,'” Watson tells redbankgreen. “It took us three days to clear that lot.”
After meetings between Watson, a retired police officer, and police Chief Steve McCarthy, McCarthy drew up an action plan to coordinate the efforts of the two agencies to target problematic streets and lots.
This weekend’s storm was the first test of that plan. It included the posting of signs on meters in English Plaza warning that the lot would be closed, barricading the lot to new entrants Friday night, and then ticketing cars left there during the storm. Fewer than five cars were ticketed and one was towed out, officials said.
In addition, notices were posted on the borough website advising residents that on some streets, parking during snowfalls constitutes a violation, but also asking all residents to remove their cars from streets if possible.
The police department also has the authority to declare certain streets as off-limits to cars during emergencies, and has availed itself of that power, McCarthy says.
Notices were posted on signs and car windshields in advance of the storm alerting motorists that parking would be prohibited, though few were ticketed in the most recent storm.
“The last option we want to use is to ticket and tow people’s cars,” McCarthy says. Still, tonight, “I think we’ll have to do some ticketing,” he says.
Separately, code enforcement personnel issued 90 citations related to trash violations over the weekend, and another 60 for failure to remove snow from sidewalks, according to municipal court clerk Fran Pastoriza. Garbage violations cost $53, and snow removal violations, $100.
Town officials are also exploring the possibility of a ordinance that would impose a blanket, townwide ban on street parking, McCarthy says, and are looking at bans in other towns for guidance. But significant questions remain unanswered, including how to accommodate residents who don’t have driveways and at what point in a storm to allow them to store their cars in municipal lots.
Meanwhile, for tonight’s storm, cars are being leafletted with warnings on blocks that were problematic during the weekend blizzard, including South Street between East Bergen Place and Pinckney Road.
Watson asks that residents “give us a couple of hours” after the end of a storm to finish plowing the streets before putting cars out, and says that shoveling into the street “is never permitted.”
In anticipation of the storm, DPW has canceled tomorrow’s planned recycling pickup west of Broad Street. Watson says he doesn’t plan to issue summonses to residents who don’t get the word.