It just won't go away

Parking woes return to forefront for Tonasket City Council

TONASKET – Zombies may be all the rage in popular culture, but the City of Tonasket seems to have hatched its own version, and it’s likely that few will be happy about it.

The oft-discussed issue of nighttime parking on city streets was resurrected after a months-long hiatus, thanks to parked vehicles interfering with snow plows.

The city ordinance – inconsistently enforced over the years – prohibits parking on all city streets between 2:00 and 6:00 a.m. When the council began reviewing ordinances on the books last year, it decided that ordinances worth keeping needed to be enforced. The ensuing enforcement efforts inspired protests from some residents, particularly those along South Tonasket Avenue where a number of residences do not have off-street parking.

Adding to the complicated scenario is the “gentlemans’ agreement” by which those without a place to go try to work around the needs of the snow plow crew, and the fact that this year some decided to disregard even that.

“The gentleman’s agreement, so to speak, was that if you don’t have off-street parking and you are parking on the streets during snow removal time, you would alternate (night to night) which side of the street you parked on,” said Tonasket police officer Darren Curtis, who attended the meeting in place of chief Rob Burks. “Because of all the grief from last winter, especially on Tonasket Ave. near State Street, they agreed not to park on one side of the street. We were trying to avoid the rigamarole with notices and infractions.”

“The frustration is that we had a lot of people that came in and met with us,” said council member Scott Olson. “And now there are others that are not doing it. They’ve been told what the deal was, and they said they don’t have to do it until the city tells them to.”

Some of the vehicles have not been moved in several weeks at least, causing snow piles to build up around them, narrowing the accessible portion of the street and impeding the ability of their neighbors to park.

“It’s also blocking the mail boxes,” Olson said. “The (other residents) spent a lot of time talking to us last year to work something out, and now they feel that we’re not keeping up with our part of the deal.”

After some discussion about whether or not the ordinance needed to be reviewed even further, council member Jean Ramsey said that the ordinance needed to be enforced as it was.

“It’s been talked about enough,” agreed council member Jill Vugteveen. “I would like us to remind people, first. When we did solidify how we were going to deal with it, we were outside of snow (season). Now we’re in snow again. So I would ask that the officers give one warning, then after that if they still haven’t dealt with the issue, proceed with enforcement.”

After it was pointed out that at least one police car had been left out on the streets overnight, Curtis said, “That situation has been remedied.”

“There was such a negative response last year,” said Mayor Patrick Plumb. “It hadn’t been enforced much over the years.

“We start saying this, and we know what the reaction is going to be.”

Vugteveen added that when the council returns to reviewing the ordinances, there were several that she wanted to see dealt with first.

“Parking, noise and dogs,” she said. “Those keep coming up. Again, if we’re going to have these ordinances, we need to enforce them.”

“We need to get the word out,” Ramsey said, “before anyone starts coming down with the hammer.”