Archive for Thursday, June 22, 2006

Tickets a ticklish parking problem

June 22, 2006

Lack of parking at the Baldwin City Municipal Pool raised its ugly head again at Monday's city council meeting.

Joy Lam told council members she was upset that her daughter received a ticket for parking on Fremont Street near the pool when she was here for Memorial Day.

"I'm here because of the parking around the pool," said Lam. "My daughter parked where she had always parked before. When she returned, she asked me 'when did they start giving $25 tickets?'

"I didn't know they had started enforcing it," she said. "When you're going through a transition period, it's nice to give a warning. I think it was uncalled for and unwarranted. I was disappointed with how it was handled. I love Baldwin. Always have."

Lam added that she was going to pay for the ticket.

"We have issues there," said Mayor Gary Walbridge, thanking Lam for speaking.

"You have hit an issue that is a big one with me," said Council Member Tony Brown.

Brown was quoted extensively in a story in last week's Signal regarding parking problems at the pool. He said long-term solutions are being discussed, but the best that can be done this year is to communicate to pool patrons where parking is legal. A map is being made that will be posted in the entrance to the pool. He showed it to Lam and council members at Monday's meeting.

"As you can see, the no parking areas dominate," said Brown. We need to let people know."

Brown also noted that parking at municipal pools is always a problem, pointing specifically to Lawrence.

"It's an issue and it's an issue we need to look at," he said. "The police are enforcing it for safety reasons."

"I appreciate your passion for this," Walbridge said. "We need to talk to (Police Chief) Mike (McKenna) about being more lenient, especially with people from out of town."

Brown had more to say about it Tuesday. The safety concerns around the pool involve getting emergency vehicles, such as ambulances and fire engines, through the streets if necessary. He also said the complaints about tickets were legitimate.

"The parking tickets that pool patrons have received have created a bad situation," said Brown. "Not being able to find a place to park or getting a ticket for parking illegally is certainly not a part of the fun summertime experience most people want to have when they go to the pool.

"But, persons that get tickets should not be angry at the police officers who issue them -- they are doing their jobs of enforcing the parking regulations around the pool," he said. "If people want to get angry, their anger should be directed at members of the city council. We are the ones who have helped to create this problem and have failed to address it over the past several summers."

Monte Ezell, director of the Baldwin City Recreation Commission that manages the pool, didn't take part in the discussion with Lam. Later, however, he did mention it.

"I've run the pool for seven years and we've always had these problems," Ezell said. "We've got more people using the pool."

Brown agreed Tuesday.

"Monte was exactly right at last night's meeting when he said that parking at the pool has been a problem for the past seven years," he said. "It's not as if we didn't know this situation was going to happen. We failed to act in a timely manner.

"I personally believe that most of the parking violations are due to confusion about and frustration with the current situation," said Brown. "So, we are going to try to improve communications with pool patrons to let them know where the appropriate places are located. As I've said before, this strategy does not create any more parking spaces, but it may help to make the use of available spaces more efficient."

And, when push comes to shove, Brown believes there's enough parking, it's just not where people would prefer.

"There actually is quite a bit of parking available in the area surrounding the pool, but it is not adjacent to the pool," he said. "I understand that everybody wants to be close to the entrance, but that is not possible.

"We don't have a whole lot of viable alternatives -- some swimmers are going to have to park up by the baseball field and make the best of the block or two walk down Fremont Street," said Brown. "I know this solution isn't perfect, but I also don't think it is totally unreasonable."

It's not all bad news at the pool, either. Ezell told the council they're serving "squish ice cream" there this summer and it's so popular they can't keep up with demand.

"People are raving about it," said Brown. "I highly recommend the corn dogs, too."

After the council took care of some routine business with 4-0 votes, talk returned to parking during the discussion from council members portion of the agenda.

"I hope that no one forgets this situation of putting the pool where it is," said Council President Amy Cleavinger. "I hope we always consider that there is ample parking. I don't want to have this discussion about the ball fields."

The city, school district and BCRC are working toward new ball fields near Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center.

"We need to consider how these things attract that many people," said Brown. "I hope you all read the story in the Signal."

In the story, Brown outlined long-range plans of cleaning out the creek area south of the pool, moving the playground equipment from where it's located south of the pool to an area closer, building another playground, possibly moving the shelter house and using that area for additional parking. The story is available on the Signal's Web site at www.baldwincity.com. Use the archives section and keywords "Parking is a pool problem."

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