Council considers downtown parking

By Sheryl Roadcap -

SIDNEY — Downtown parking was discussed during the Monday evening hybrid-style Sidney City Council teleconference meeting.

City Manager Mark Cundiff led discussions on extending the downtown parking amnesty program and parking in the downtown in general.

Cundiff recently brought the issue of considering extending the parking amnesty program to council on Feb. 8, but after members expressed concern about the non-enforcement of overnight parking restrictions and several other questions about downtown parking, he sought to review downtown parking and come back with recommendations. City staff’s recommendation Monday and on Feb. 8 is to extend the program until Jan. 1, 2022.

Monday, he again reminded members council passed a resolution on Aug. 24, 2020, to extend the downtown parking amnesty program initially instituted during the previous holiday season. It is for the non-enforcement of the two-hour parking restriction within the two-hour spaces of the nine-block area bordered by West Avenue, North Street, Miami Avenue, and South Street. The amnesty does not include the metered spaces in front of the post office, nor lift the restriction to prohibit overnight parking in these on-street spaces.

The current extension will end on March 31, 2020. Cundiff said city staff feels action needs to be taken on the amnesty program before it expires.

Although Council member Steve Wagner said he was surprise no parking complaints had been received by the city or Sidney Alive, Mayor Mike Barhorst said he received a complaint from a downtown business about apartment tenants parking in front of a business instead of in the off-street parking lot. Cundiff said the apartment manager and owner support city’s position and have informed their tenants on-street parking may result in parking tickets.

Sidney Alive Executive Director Amy Breinich said she received the same complaint and advised them to discuss alternatives with their tenants. She noted it appears to have been successful so far.

At the end of the discussion, council directed Cundiff bring back legislation extending the amnesty program for further consideration.

Cundiff then presented members with a PowerPoint presentation covering certain sections of chapter 351 of the codified ordinances on downtown parking. The presentation included sections on heavy snowfall, the use of certain parking lots, leased parking spaces in municipal lots and overnight parking in general.

After some discussion and pointing out flaws in the current code, at the end of his presentation, Cundiff recommended the following:

• Better Signage at lot entrances and on main entryways to help direct people to off-street parking;

• To open certain lots for free public parking Monday through Friday between 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m., and on Saturday and Sunday all day;

• Change all overnight parking restrictions to prohibit overnight parking from 3 to 5 a.m.;

• Change the terminology in section 351.15 on heavy snowfall to better define the central business district.

Cundiff said because no two winter events are the same, city staff prefers the flexibility of the current language on heavy snowfall: “when it becomes necessary for the city to use snow removal equipment in clearing city streets,” and therefore no change of in language was requested.

After a brief discussion, he was again directed to bring back legislation on the parking recommendation changes.

In other business during council comments at the end of the meeting, Vice Mayor Mardie Milligan asked for an update on status of the house at 223 N. Walnut Ave., which sustained a fire in 2019 and still has no upstairs windows. Law Director Jeff Amick said a judgment was recently made against the property and it will likely to go into foreclosure. Cundiff said he would have someone from the community development department review the property.

Council member Jenny VanMatre said she appreciated seeing the house at 701 Monroe St. boarded up due to continuous drug activity. Council members thanked Amick and others involved with the good work to end the problem there.

Barhorst said in light of the recent cold weather, the natural gas market in a state of flux, therefore the city’s consultant continues to closely monitor the market to determine the best time to negotiate a new natural gas aggregation contract. The contract for the city’s current residential natural gas aggregation program expires in April.

Also Monday, City Council held a special meeting immediately prior to its regular meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to hold an executive session to discuss the employment of a public employee. No action was taken by council when members emerged from the session.

By Sheryl Roadcap

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.