Police Chief Bill Drager restated his position on the need for the parking ban. ďIím concerned for public safety. We have had at least four accidents involving cars pulling out of the alley behind city hall where they could not see oncoming traffic. Plus, there have been several close calls,Ē Drager stressed.
Dick Johnson of Vern Johnson Motors, said he respected Chief Dragerís opinions but didnít completely agree with them. ďA stop light has been installed on Highway 23. I feel you need to give it a chance to work before imposing parking bans. At an earlier meeting this year, MnDOT stated they would like to see a 150-foot parking ban. Why would the city like to exceed that limit?Ē he asked. Drager replied, because the alley and problem area is beyond the 150-foot limit.
Johnson listed off businesses that would be adversely affected by the parking ban: Ruthies, Burr Barber Shop, Jimmyís Pizza, Bolstad Realty, Vern Johnson Motors and the American Legion.
ďIn a small town, parking needs to be convenient for customers or they wonít shop here,Ē Johnson said. ďBy restricting parking on Highway 23, it will place more pressure on downtown parking spaces.Ē Johnson presented the council with three options to consider:
1) No trucks parking on Highway 23 in the area from Highway 124 to Augusta Avenue.
2) Make the two alleys in this area one-way except for emergency vehicles. The alleys are located behind Jack and Jill and city hall.
3) Mark 150 feet on Highway 23 a no parking zone and place two-hour parking restrictions on Washburne Avenue.
Johnson also questioned Chief Dragerís recommendation considering he was planning on retiring in May. ďShouldnít the new chief look at the issue?Ē Johnson asked. ďThe council is elected by the public, please consider us in your decisions. We would appreciate some communication before a decision is made.Ē
Jim Ochs of Jimmyís Pizza, said a parking ban on Highway 23 would put his business at a great disadvantage. His pizza delivery kids carry money and it would put them at a greater risk to park further away, and his clientel are older people who would not walk the extra distance. ďI feel the city should follow MnDOTís recommendation, that 150 feet is a sufficient amount and to make the alleyís one way would solve a lot of problems,Ē Ochs said.
Councilman Dennis Zimmerman agreed parking is definitely a safety issue on Highway 23. ďAccidents are waiting to happen, especially in the winter months,Ē he said.
Kevin Schoenherr, Tuckís Cafe, said highway safety should be the first issue. He added the elderly wouldnít want to cross a busy highway.
Zeno Preimesberger suggested limit parking on only one side of Highway 23, the south side.
Mayor Jeff Thompson said the council could mull over the problem for a while since signage wonít be erected until spring and it will be hard to enforce until the signs are up.
Ron Mergen, public works director, said if the no parking area were designated, only about 10 or less parking spaces would be lost.
Jerry Burr, Jack and Jill, said he has been in business in Paynesville 33 years and has had to live with bad decisions from the council. ďIf designating the area no parking will save one personís life, Iím for it. But first the council needs to look at all the alternatives. I agree, the alley is dangerous. I had a kid on a bike once run into my pickup truck as I pulled out of the alley,Ē Burr told the council.
The council agreed to table the resolution designating the area a no parking zone for one month. The council will have a traffic count and visibility tests done on the alleys. The issue will again be placed on the Feb. 26 agenda.
In other business, the council approved a resolution banning parking on any street from 2 to 6 a.m. from Nov. 1 to March 31, snow removal periods.
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