Council discusses 72-hour parking ordinance

Marietta City Council discussed ways to exempt city residents from 72-hour on-street parking limits after a Fifth Street resident expressed concern over the ordinance at Wednesday’s Streets & Transportation Committee meeting.

“It seems unreasonable. A resident parked in front of his or her home ought not to be subject to a parking fine,” said Charles Ditchendorf.

Ditchendorf has lived at his Fifth Street residence for 18 years and was not even aware of the 72-hour rule until he recently received a ticket, he said. It makes the policy seem inconsistent, he added.

Marietta City Safety-Service Director Jonathan Hupp insisted the enforcement is not inconsistent, but has been amped up in recent weeks due to numerous complaints about Marietta College students taking up an exorbitant amount of street parking.

“The college has tripled the price of their parking passes this year,” he said.

In addition, street parking on Fifth, Sixth, Tupper, and other nearby streets is closer to campus than some campus parking lots, prompting students to use city parking more frequently, said Hupp.

Ditchendorf questioned what residents would do if taking a vacation.

“I talked to several policemen. Their solution was to have someone move your car while you’re gone. That doesn’t make sense,” he said.

Ditchendorf proposed having the city sell resident passes, which are used in several other Ohio cities to give residents certain exemptions when parking near their home.

Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward, questioned the administration of the passes, asking whether college students would be able to purchase them and whether they would be city wide.

“If you live on Fifth Street and have a parking pass, would you be able to come over and park in Harmar for (as long as you want)?” he asked.

Marietta City Law Director Paul Bertram cited Columbus, which issued zoned parking passes to residents.

But that could create confusion in enforcement, noted Vukovic.

Councilman Steve Thomas, D-3rd Ward, asked if the tags would require extra money for enforcement and what a reasonable price point would be.

Also discussed by both Streets & Transportation and the Finance Committee was a proposal by Eric Lambert, project manager with the city engineering department, to expedite a project to reinstall a duckbill valve and head wall on the Ohio River near the Marietta Wastewater Treatment Plant. The valve helps prevent high water events from affected Pike Street and Eighth Street, he said.

“We’re going to lose the advantage of having a contractor with the proper equipment,” said Lambert.

P.A.E. & Associates, which is currently working on phase two of the wastewater treatment plant renovation, have some of the heavy equipment needed to fix the duckbill and head wall, which has deteriorated beyond use since being installed five years ago.

The company put in a bid of $27,205, which includes considerable funding to protect the River Trail in that area, said Lambert. Two other contractors were unable to put together complete bids because they would be unable to secure the necessary equipment at a reasonable price, he added.

Vukovic questioned if the city had any recourse against whoever designed or installed the initial structure. Bertram, Hupp, and Lambert countered that could be just as costly.

“What we’re saying is ‘Come do business with the city and if you do it wrong, don’t worry, the city will take care of it,'” said Vukovic.

Lambert said the first step in exploring legal recourse was to have an outside firm come in and evaluate the project.

“I’ll get estimates. We’re probably talking $175 to $200 an hour,” he said.

Council also discussed possibilities for hiring a dedicated city parking enforcement officer. An estimate for a full-time officer, a part-time officer and a sub-contracted officer were compared.

A full-time officer would cost the city approximately $39,000 a year. A 30-hour per week city employee would cost around $19,000 annually. A 30-hour per week sub-contracted employee would cost just over $24,000 annually.

No decision on the matter was made.

Council also discussed the continuing problem with people using portions of the River Trail that are not yet open.

“We’re worried people are going to get hurt. The bike rails are not up and it’s very dangerous,” said Lambert.

The path is open from its inception at Indian Acres Park to its location near the intersection of Fourth Street and Ohio Street, he reminded residents.