Archive for Thursday, November 17, 2005

Chanute account doesn’t add up

November 17, 2005

It seems that the claims made by Chanute High School fans that they were targeted by a parking ticket onslaught while attending the Nov. 5 state playoff game here were exaggerated.

In a letter to the editor in the Nov. 10 Signal, Chanute resident Randy Galemore claimed that 140 Chanute fans received tickets from parking around Liston Stadium. A review by the Signal found there were a total of 37 parking tickets issued that Saturday. Four of those were written during the Baker University game against Culver-Stockton, which preceded the Baldwin High-Chanute game at Liston.

Out of the 33 remaining tickets, 10 were issued to cars with license plates from the Chanute area. There were 11 Douglas County cars ticketed. The other dozen tickets were to cars from various counties. That's quite a few less than the 140 Galemore claimed.

"We don't even carry 140 tickets with us," said Police Chief Mike McKenna. "It's disappointing to me, both as a person and a police chief, that someone would think we would stoop to that low of character to be vindictive toward anyone. This is a professional department and it carries itself in a professional manner and will continue to do so.

"It's equally disappointing to me that people tend to believe distorted facts rather than checking with the department if they have questions," McKenna said. "As you well know and the community well knows, we have always had an open door policy on those matters. We are a transparent organization with our enforcement. They can always call or come here with concerns."

The tickets were written because drivers parked along streets near the stadium where signs say "no parking on this side of the street." That's because if cars are parked on both sides of the narrow streets, emergency vehicles -- such as ambulances and fire trucks -- can't get through. It's a liability issue, he said. And, residents of those streets have requested that the parking be limited.

"The council has listened to citizens who came before the council and asked that no parking signs be placed there so they can get access," said McKenna. "The council has approved the signs, public works has installed the signs and it is our job to enforce the no parking signs. No more, no less."

The Baldwin-Chanute game brought thousands of football fans to Liston Stadium. Everyone is aware of the parking limitations around the stadium. Cars are ticketed every time there's an event there and when crowds swell, the ticket count rises. McKenna met with Baldwin School District Supt. James White regarding the situation.

"I told the superintendent that we had an obligation to enforce the law to see that emergency vehicles could get down the street in the event of an emergency or the event of a fire," McKenna said. "I suggested that when they have a large capacity as they did have, the people could park at the high school and use a shuttle bus. I think we all realize there needs to be more adequate parking in that area, but that doesn't lessen the need to enforce the no parking areas."

Galemore's letter also claimed that police officers wouldn't help a wheel-chair bound Chanute radio broadcaster whose bus wouldn't start after the game and needed a jump start. That has also been found to be false. Baldwin resident Mike Grosdidier walked the family dog past the stadium about 45 minutes after the game was over. He offered to help.

"As I walked to by the van, which was still there, I noticed the hood was up, at which time I asked if they needed some help," said Grosdidier, who is also a veteran high school football official. "The response I got was a 'go to hell' look and no verbal response. At that time, I felt I had done something to make them angry, so I proceeded home. I was really surprised to hear that no one helped the person. But, if they got the same response I received, then I understand completely."

Also, the police were called and responded to the disabled vehicle as well.

"A local businessman (Grosdidier) as well as the officers offered help and were assured that Triple A (vehicle service from Lawrence) was on the way and they didn't need help," said McKenna. "The officers stayed there until help arrived."

Galemore's letter also implied that Baldwin fans pelted the wheel-chair bound broadcaster, Mike Sutcliffe, with food and rocks.

"No, that didn't happen," said Sutcliffe. "I was in the broadcast bus next to the stadium. There were rocks or ice thrown on top of the bus. It sounded like a hail storm at times. But, I've been to a lot of high school football games. I really don't want to make a big deal of it."

Sutcliffe's television crew member experienced trouble with the doors to the press box being locked after the game and that the crew member was verbally abused by fans. But, there were no reports.

"We had no reports during the game or after the game and there were three officers there," McKenna said of the rock/ice/food throwing claims.

The police chief said he'd had calls from other media outlets, including the Kansas City Star, as a result of the Chanute complaints. When a reporter from the Star called McKenna, he told him that "he didn't think there was a story here." Then he pointed out the discrepancies between the alleged 140 tickets to Chanute fans alone, when there was a total of only 37 written the entire day. The Star did not do a story.

"I think they've exaggerated the facts either because they were exaggerated to them or they wanted to exaggerate them," he said of the letter writer and other Chanute complainers. "Either way, it's unfortunate.

"It's community trust," said McKenna. "It all boils down to ethics. We don't have anyone on the police department that would go to that level."

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