Council debates use of parking spaces near police station

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OCEAN CITY — Five parking spaces along Central Avenue, currently being used by members of the police department, may become metered parking if an ordinance introduced by Council Thursday, June 14 is passed.

Council introduced an ordinance to revise the traffic code to eliminate the designation for “city vehicles only” and install parking meters on the west side of Central Avenue between Ninth and Eighth streets.

The ordinance will also remove 10th Street and Central Avenue and 14th Street and Central Avenue from the city’s list of four-way stop intersections, and include them in the traffic light intersections, as well as the new stop at Fifth Street and West Avenue. This ordinance was proposed by the administration.

“This is really a housekeeping ordinance,” solicitor Dottie McCrosson told council.

“This will make the overall ordinance consistent with the parking meter ordinance that City Council adopted last month.”

McCrosson said that ordinance included the addition of meters on the west side of Central Avenue where police vehicles are currently parked.

“Chief (Chad) Callahan assures us that it is not displacing any police department vehicles,” she said. “Some police officers personal vehicles will need to be parked off of city property on one of the local lots.”

McCrosson said there is room in the police lot for all the police vehicles, and the chief has no concern about detectives and officers getting to cars in the event they need to get there quickly.

Former Councilwoman Alice Wolf said she had brought the original ordinance designating those spots for police parking forward when she served. She said that having those spots available for officers was for safety and asked council to reconsider keeping it the way it is.

Councilman Tony Wilson said he agrees with Wolf. He said he spoke to members of the local PBA and it was made clear to him that those spaces “are critical to the department for their operation.”

City Business Administrator Mike Dattilo said having the metered spaces is not about making extra money, it’s about making parking spaces available to the public.

“The mayor has taken several steps in recent months … to increase the availability of parking,” he said.

Councilman Keith Hartzell said that council, in 2002 when the ordinance was passed, was just as concerned about the downtown and parking. He said that it was his practice not to overturn an ordinance that had strong support when it was first put into place.

“I cannot support the second section (of the ordinance) of this at this time,” he said referencing the parking designation.

“I’m a little confused,” Councilwoman Karen Bergman said. “It’s five parking spots?”

Mayor Jay Gillian responded that the reason there was an issues is because he is asking city employees to park at the transportation center.

He said he asked employees to park elsewhere, and has received a push back.

“People think they are entitled to a parking spot,” Gillian said. “Were trying to help a downtown that’s thriving and I’m asking our team members to maybe walk a little bit.

“The push back is, ‘no,’ they don’t want to do that.”

Gillian said that the designation in that area is for city vehicles, not for police vehicles. So, if the ordinance is not passed, “We can put any car down there that we want,” he said.

“It’s just disappointing because this has nothing to do with safety,” Gillian said of the debate. “It’s ridiculous.”

Bergman asked for Callahan to come in to discuss it with council and answer questions at the next meeting.

Councilman John Kemenosh said on-site parking for officer’s personal vehicles should be installed at the new public safety facility, when it is built. In the meantime, he said this ordinance would level the playing field for all the employees. McCrosson told council that if they wanted to remove parking portion of the ordinance on second reading and public hearing, she felt they could without it being a major change.

Council agreed to introduce the ordinance; public hearing will be 7 p.m. Thursday, June 28 in City Hall.

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