Despite repeated warnings from Mayor Brian U. Stratton, City Hall employees are leaving their cars in front of Jay Street businesses all day, taking up precious customer parking spaces and not even feeding the meters.
Workers said the spaces across from City Hall are more convenient than parking in the city lot, which is one block away.
Their attitude has business owners steaming but they say they’re worried that if they complain, their City Hall customers will boycott them.
“They are my customers too,” said Don Leva, who runs Leva’s News & Lottery. “You understand, I’m in a difficult position.”
But, he said, cars that sit in front of his store all day deter customers who drive by and might park for just a minute while they buy a newspaper.
And the problem is just going to get worse.
“As other things begin to develop here, now these spaces need to be open,” said Allan Anderson, who runs Media Well Done. “Now we have Pizza King, and the fellow next to me is finally getting to the point where he’s opening the laundromat. He needs parking.”
The business owners have quietly asked Stratton to deal with the problem, to no avail.
Stratton said he, too, is frustrated that his employees aren’t listening to him.
“I’ve reminded our employees repeatedly at our staff meetings to leave those spaces,” he said. “I’ve told them I’d prefer they use the employee lot.”
He’s also reduced the number of “official city business” placards, which are given to employees who come and go often. Those placards allow the driver to park without paying the meter, but they’re supposed to be used when employees work at night or have a number of meetings outside the building.
“If they’re working late and they don’t want to walk unescorted [to the employee lot] at a late hour, I’ve issued them a placard,” Stratton said. “The people that are in and out of City Hall regularly have placards issued.”
City Clerk Carolyn Friello, for example, has a placard because she works late on Mondays for the City Council, Stratton said.
But Friello used the placard on Tuesday to park in front of Media Well Done all day. Next to her car was Personnel and Benefits Administrator Kathy Finch’s vehicle, with its own placard. They left just one free space for Anderson’s customers.
Corporation Counsel L. John Van Norden said he parks there frequently as well.
“That’s where I always park,” he said. “As a general rule, I won’t park if I can avoid it. If I have to, I park by the building that’s vacant.”
The dozen or so employees with placards can also use designated spots on the City Hall side of the street, but just four spaces have been set aside for them. They fill up fast.
Van Norden said the rest of the spots around City Hall are also usually taken by the time he gets to work each morning, either by employees who feed the meters or visitors. Court days are particularly busy.
“The mayor has indicated his preference that we park on the City Hall side of the street. It’s hard for me to find a parking spot,” Van Norden said.
In response to the latest complaints from the business owners, Stratton again asked employees to park elsewhere. That request appeared to have some success. Friello said Thursday that she wouldn’t park on the business side of Jay Street anymore.
“There was no reason, just that I’m lazy. I’m serious,” she said. “… There’s no reason I can’t walk down to the lot and I did that today.”
Van Norden said he, too, would park in the employee lot if there’s no other place to park.
“Maybe I’ll have to park in the lot. I’ll certainly do that if that’s what’s necessary,” he said. “There are some city staff that prefer to feed the meters. They don’t want to walk the block. But the mayor is very business-friendly and he’s made his preference clear.”
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