MOUNT VERNON — City Council made some progress on parking issues Monday night, passing several ordinances that clear up the language and better define authority and fines.
Councilman John Fair, chairman of the Streets Committee, said he, along with Police Chief Mike Merrilees and Safety-Service Director Dave Glass and with others, went through the current ordinances to figure out the best way to handle downtown parking.
Merrilees said his goal was to clarify some ordinances that have been around for a long time. That, in turn, may help the downtown situation.
“What I wanted to do with the new ordinances, is for every ordinance that has a fine, I want the fine with the ordinance. If there is a penalty for no compliance, I want all of that together,” he said.
He said police officers have the authority to enforce parking violations, but in the past have been reluctant to do so because of the confusion in reading the code. Having fines and procedures clearly spelled out makes it easier for the officer to write tickets.
When an owner reaches a certain amount in unpaid tickets, the car is subject to being impounded. Merrilees said officers will have a list of vehicle owners who have unpaid tickets. When writing a ticket, the officers can give the owner a choice of paying the unpaid tickets or allowing the car to be impounded. If a vehicle is impounded, the owner would then have to pay the unpaid tickets, a towing fee and storage fee.
The revised ordinances also spell out the authority the part-time parking attendant has when writing tickets. The attendant will report to the safety-service director, but will work under the police department.
Merrilees said starting in May, officers will begin working the downtown area about 20 hours a week. The part-time attendant will continue with 20 hours.
Councilman Chuck Dice reiterated he still favors giving the job of parking enforcement to the police department, and is against the part-time parking attendant position. He believes the city is losing money by funding the parking attendant position.
Councilman Mike Hillier said the goal of having a parking attendant is not to make money for the city through fines, but to enforce parking violations.
“With the revised ordinances, with stepped up officers and with the part-time attendant, I don’t think we will lose money,” said Merrilees.
In other business, council:
•Authorized the city auditor to pay a legal bill for $4,275.61 for union negotiations; to make fund transfers, including $11,000 for new equipment at the water plant; and appropriated money, including $260,000 from a Community Foundation of Mount Vernon and Knox County grant which will be used to hire 30 to 40 people over the summer for city projects.
•Gave a first reading to a resolution approving a revised 9-1-1 implementation plan for the county. “For the most part, what this does is allows 9-1-1 revenue to be used for updating equipment,” said Mavis. The plan must be approved by 60 percent of municipalities in the county before it becomes effective.
•Gave a first reading to an ordinance updating flood plain regulations. According to City Engineer Cameron Keaton, the main changes involve making noncompliance with the regulations a minor misdemeanor rather than a fourth-degree misdemeanor, and raising the level at which a structure must be built above the potential water level.