Saturday, February 6, 2021

Columbia council weighs cracking down on parking violators during snowstorms

When: Columbia Borough Council work session, Feb. 2.

What happened: Borough Council needs to fill a vacancy after member Pamela Wilson resigned her position, effective immediately. Wilson, who joined the council in 2016, plans to spend more time with her son, who moved to Florida. Anyone interested in serving on council must be a registered voter and have lived continuously in the borough for the past year. Letters of interest, addressed to President Heather Zink, must be received by Feb. 22, at the borough office, 308 Locust St., Columbia, PA, 17512. Public interviews will follow, Zink said.

Parking in the snow: The recent snowstorm caused major traffic problems for the borough because some residents did not move their parked cars, as the borough requires. The borough didn't tow these cars, even though they caused delays for snowplows and blocked streets needed for emergency vehicles to access Route 30.

Quotable: "We tried to be nice; it didn't work. We realize we have a problem," Mayor Leo Lutz told council members. "There are some things that need to be changed."

Background: The borough code prohibits street parking during a declared snow emergency, but no cars have been towed. Council decided to slowly introduce the message that the borough is now enforcing the code. Drivers first found warnings on their vehicles Feb. 1. Vehicles still parked in the street Feb. 2 received citations. Although no car was towed this storm, Borough Manager Mark Stivers said residents now know their cars will get towed during the next declared snow emergency.

Improving parking experiences: Council members also discussed how to improve parking in the borough after reviewing results from a 2020 parking study. Topics discussed included using a hybrid parking-meter system that would accept cash but also allow people to swipe credit cards. Or, the borough could move existing parking meters and use signs to better direct drivers. Council members briefly mentioned building a parking garage and then discussed the pros and cons of residential parking permits.

The cost: Stivers told council members they can use about $1.7 million, if they choose, to improve parking.  Council also discussed how to handle handicap parking permits —whether to assign certain license plates to a particular space or whether to just offer handicap parking. Stivers said the borough wants to offer specific handicap spaces, based either on a vehicle's license plate number or handicap parking tag number. The borough plans to contact the company that handles Lancaster city parking for advice and possible prices.

What's next: The borough will hold a council meeting at 7 p.m. Feb. 16, and the meeting will be streamed on the borough's Facebook page.

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