City searches for better care of streets

City searches for better care of streets by David Lias Resolution.

That was the major goal of the Vermillion City Council's Policy and Procedure Committee and concerned citizens who met March 1 at the Vermillion City Library to discuss street parking issues.

By the end of the meeting, nearly everyone in attendance � from homeowners to University of South Dakota students who must park their cars on the streets � had expressed their views in the relaxed atmosphere of the library.

The committee left the building that night with some good input to ideas that, eventually, may make it easier to clear city streets of snow in the winter and allow the street sweeper to do a more effective cleaning job during warmer months.

"We don't have the answer up here; we're looking for it, so any thoughts that you have, any input, would certainly be appreciated," said Roger Kozak, alderman and committee chairman.

Alderman Leo Powell, also a member of the committee, read a letter from Carol Sanderson, who could not be present at the meeting.

Sanderson noted in her letter that she is concerned about street maintenance in neighborhoods of The University of South Dakota campus.

"Any new maintenance plan," she stated, "will require recognition of the reality of the streets' major function as parking for the university between the areas of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. as well as the need for sanitation and maintenance as with all city streets."

Sanderson noted that in the 25 years she has lived at her home near the university, she has witnessed only once the street sweeper sweeping along the parking side of the street.

"That side of the street has been essentially abandoned for the purposes of street maintenance," she added.

She suggested a regular maintenance plan that requires parked cars to change sides of the street on different days of the week, or early or late crews working campus neighborhoods.

Alderman Barbara Yelverton noted that this winter has demonstrated that the city's current practices of snow removal and street maintenance aren't effective.

"One of the things that I would propose is that we do every other day parking on the side of the street," she said. "That way, I think it would make it easier for students, and be more effective for both snow removal and street sweeping."

Kozak noted that earlier that day an individual had e-mailed him information from St. Cloud, MN.

That city, Kozak said, implements odd/even parking, and the system appears to be effective.

"St. Cloud obviously has a university in

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the community, they are a larger community than Vermillion, but this illustrates that this can work," Kozak said. "Apparently they've had this regulation on the books for a number of years."

Jason Veal asked why the city has 24 hour parking restrictions in place.

"If you drive around, you will see some vehicles that have a windrow of snow around them," Kozak said, "and if you do not have some type of ordinance that requires an ordinance to move, literally that vehicle could be parked there in October and moved in April and that, of course, we do not want."

He added that the enforcement of the ordinance is difficult, because its based largely on complaints received from citizens by police.

"The whole idea is to permit street cleaning and snow removal, and we don't want people to abandon vehicles on the street, either," Kozak said.

Gary Wright, an alderman and committee member, said often times citizens abuse the privilege of parking vehicles on the street.

"Sometimes, they may have a grudge against their neighbor," he said. "They may park a boat or camper in the street, or they may a park a vehicle on the street and leave it there for a week or more, so the streets can't be cleared or swept."

Wright said he would like to see the city take a more proactive approach to the problem by moving vehicles that haven't budged from a curbside for a long period of time without waiting for a citizen's complaint.

"I think the car should be moved without the neighbor having to call," Wright said. "Sometimes it's pitting neighbor against neighbor."

Alderman Joe Grause noted that if the city adopted an alternate day parking rule, such problems would be eliminated, for vehicles would have to be moved each day.

Luke Steece, a University of South Dakota student, suggested that the city consider alternate side street parking on the middle of the week, such as Tuesday through Thursday. That way, students who may travel out Vermillion during a weekend in someone else's car wouldn't have to worry about their vehicles being ticketed and possibly towed.

Jason Veal told committee members that he realizes he's responsible for his vehicle. He was disappointed recently, when the city suddenly, without direct notice to people in his neighborhood, put up no parking signs and towed away cars that eventually weren't moved.

Veal said he was in class and then working, and never saw the signs until it was too late.

"There was no television notification, there was no radio notification," he said. "Some sort of notification would have been nice."

Veal and other USD students noted that there is an all-student e-mail on campus. They may be one of the most effective ways to notify students that parking may be prohibited on some streets to allow them to cleared of snow.

People attending Thursday's meeting agreed that Cable TV channels 3 or 18 may prove to be a good source of notifying students and the city's general populations of any special parking restrictions.

USD students at the meeting noted that they believed it is important for a grace period to follow any changes in parking and snow removal regulations to give everyone a chance to become aware of the new rules.

Tim Schumaker noted that the city has let on-street parking happen for a long time, and also allowed the development of apartments, fraternities and sororities that don't offer off-street parking.

Kozak said the city's long term goal is to eventually reduce on-street parking. Present building codes, he said, will not permit the construction of multi-unit housing without also including a certain number of off-street parking spaces per resident.

When this change was made, however, present multi-unit dwellings without off-street parking were "grandfathered in," Kozak said, meaning the change in the law applied only to newly constructed units.

"We have a lot of units that were grandfathered in, and until that use changes, we're probably going to be saddled with that problem," he said.

"Whatever the committee eventually decides to do, don't do it carte blanche across the whole city," Dick Burbach told the committee members. "Identify two or three areas as test streets. If you have errors, then you have errors just on those few streets. If you do it throughout the city, then you may have errors throughout the city."

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