Aldermen hear plea for overnight parking by David Lias The Vermillion City Council heard from a USD student at its Oct. 4 meeting who longs for the way things used to be.
Tana Fye, representing the local government committee of the university's Student Association, urged aldermen to reconsider local enforcement of a city ordinance that prohibits cars from being parked on Main Street after 2 a.m.
"People who are parked downtown overnight can no longer call in to the police department to have their cars not be ticketed or towed," she said. "This is something that my committee and the students as a whole feel very strongly about."
Enforcement of the ordinance affects a good number of the students who frequent downtown drinking establishments, she said, who may need to leave their cars there overnight.
Fye said she believes the city ordinance may not work in the best interests of not only USD students, but also the general public.
The Vermillion Police Department began enforcing the ordinance last month. Vehicles parked downtown between the hours of 2 and 6 a.m. are subject to a $10 parking ticket.
In the past, police had allowed students to call the police station and request their cars not be ticketed if left downtown overnight.
The Vermillion Police Department, however, is no longer offering that exception to the city law.
"The reason that we feel so strongly about this is the increase in drunk driving that we believe could be an effect of this," she said. "A lot of the business establishments that stay open rather late downtown, some of the bars � a lot of the students and citizens who drive down there obviously are not going to want to pay a ticket and are not going to want to have their cars towed, so they are going to drive home after they have been drinking.
"I see that as something that's not necessarily good for the students or other citizens of the community," Fye said.
A Safe Ride program, which offers a bus shuttle service for USD students and other citizens to downtown from several locations in the community, has just begun its second year, she said.
"Because of this, a lot of students and a lot of people in the community don't know that they can ride the Fun Bus downtown and then ride it back (home)," Fye said. "So what a lot of people have been doing is driving downtown and then taking the Fun Bus back home."
She requested that the city council work with the Vermillion Police Department and change enforcement of the parking ordinance to the way it had been in the past.
Fye said the benefits of paying for extra police staff to field phone calls would outweigh the potential harm that could be caused if students drove home intoxicated.
City Manager Jim Patrick noted that people who believe they'll likely be leaving their cars downtown overnight are encouraged to park in the city hall parking lot, the lot across the street from city hall, and in the city library's parking lot.
"The policy has been abused," he said. "What we're doing now is actually just a reinstatement of the ordinances."
The practice of allowing individuals to call and leave their cars parked on downtown streets, Patrick said, has gotten out of hand.
"It's to the point where it's no longer workable for both the people parking there as well as the police officers trying to enforce it," he said. "And it's being abused by people that live downtown who take advantage of it."
Patrick said with the Safe Ride program and the designated off-street parking areas, "there should be sufficient parking downtown other than on the street. That also gives us the ability to get the streets cleaned a little bit easier in the mornings instead of trying to move around cars."
"We would be happy to work with your student group and see if we can't come to some resolution on this," Mayor Dan Christopherson said. He asked Patrick to work with the committee to see if a solution exists that would be favorable to both students and the city.