COMING SOON: Winter and no parking on Wadena streets
City hopes the change to no parking lessens headaches and saves money.
WADENA — As a way to ease an issue that impacts city departments and residents almost every winter in Wadena, the city plans to pass an ordinance banning winter parking on all streets at night.
And if it goes through it will be effective this November. The committee working on this said they are leaning towards no winter parking from midnight to 6 a.m., Nov. 1 to March 31 each year, according to Public Works Director Dan Kovar.
They aim to bring this ordinance in draft form to the council at their October meeting. A second reading could be in November or earlier if a special meeting is called. Once passed they plan to promote the change widely.
Where did this idea come from?
The idea is not new, though it’s been months since discussion has surfaced. Now the city council and city staff are shifting gears, realizing that the inevitable snow, and all the joys that come with it, is on the way.
The desire to do this comes after years of plowing around vehicles that do not move from the streets. This causes headaches for those trying to plow, it causes parking issues for those trying to utilize on-street parking; and vehicles required to move that do not get law enforcement involved, including ticketing and towing.
“The time it took to deal with this situation was extensive,” Kovar said in a council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 13. The topic was not an agenda item but came up and received some of the most lively conversations of the evening.
The move to get all those vehicles, sometimes 30-40 vehicles during a snow event, off the streets is one that should save the city money, Kovar said.
“It takes a lot of time and equipment to go and cleanup after we’ve plowed around vehicles and staff time,” Kovar said. Any extra work in the residential areas then delays the downtown cleanup. Some conversation was had about having an odd/even parking schedule, a tactic not uncommon in other communities where vehicles can park on one side of the street on odd days and park on the opposite one on even days. Kovar said that method would not work well in Wadena because of the extra staffing it would require for the extra days and the issue of plowing in residents not once, but twice as the work to clear the street extends over multiple days.
The best solution, officials believe, is no parking at all.
In Kovar’s research he found there are several ways to handle the predicament:
- Do nothing.
- Create an ordinance, but give the community the benefit of the doubt that they’ll move their vehicles out of the way on their own. (Which is what the city does now with limited success.)
- Enforce odd/even parking.
- Or no winter parking.
Kovar said in his research he found that across the state about 30-40% of cities go with no winter parking.
The city does have an ordinance now that vehicles must be moved every 24 hours. They have an ordinance where rental properties must provide off-street parking for tenants.
Wadena Chief of Police Naomi Plautz said her department would be ready to enforce this change. She said this ordinance makes it very clear that there is no parking, so if someone is parked there after midnight, they get a ticket the first day. If it’s still there the next day, they are towed. If a vehicle is parked overnight when it snows, they are being towed that day. They no longer would have to keep an eye on the vehicles or mark tires to see if they are being moved or not.
Planning and Zoning Director Dean Uselman suggested this ordinance could be difficult for some to follow. He shared that this could put a burden on some renters who have limited options for parking.
“I think no parking at all is going to create a lot of problems with a number of rentals that we have in town,” Uselman said. “I think it will put a lot of people in a bind and it's going to be people that can least afford a ticket or having their car towed.”
“There is places to park,” Mayor George Deiss responded.
“Not every where,” Uselman responded.
“It can be done,” Deiss said. “Is it going to inconvenience some people? Yes. But in the long run, is it better for the city?”
“Yes,” councilman Jessie Gibbs responded. The rest of the council did not take issue with the recommendation, though councilman Bruce Uselman was absent.
Making this happen requires the city to pass an ordinance. That will likely involve a first reading in October and second reading in November, unless a special meeting is called to speed up the process. City council members said they wanted to hear from residents on what they thought, though the passing of an ordinance does not require a public hearing. Rather the first and second readings are the best times to attend a meeting and speak during the public comment period. Or, feel free to call or visit with council members to share your thoughts.
The full language of the ordinance is not yet ready but will be shared in the Pioneer Journal once prepared.