by CHRIS ROGERS
The 20-hour parking rule has been waiting for its day at city hall. The rule requires citizens throughout the city to move cars parked on the street every 20 hours or risk having them towed, and on September 5, three City Council members expressed support for reconsidering the rule and asked city staff to put it on a future City Council agenda. On Monday night, 20-hour parking will be on the agenda. City staff recommended leaving the rule as it is.
“It just seems like 20 hours might be a little restrictive,” Mayor Mark Peterson said at the early September meeting, after relaying the story of a couple who had parked their motorhome on the street for a couple days while packing it up for a long trip only to have it towed. “I would hope that maybe council members would be supportive of asking staff to take a look at that — whether 20 hours is really the right number of hours,” Peterson stated. Council members Al Thurley and Paul Schollmeier echoed the mayor’s request.
Their request came after a Winona Post article shared the stories of Winonans whose cars had been towed for violating the rule. Some of those people argued for changing the rule, saying that there are lots of legitimate reasons to park one’s car for more than 20 hours and that the often-violated rule has been used as a way to pick on neighbors.
In a recommendation to the City Council released late last week, Winona Police Chief Paul Bostrack advised the council to leave the ordinance as-is. Extending the ordinance to 72 hours would create logistical problems for the police officers asked to enforce it, Bostrack explained.
After receiving a complaint, the police department sends out an officer to mark the tires of the allegedly offending vehicle. If it is still there in 20 hours, the officer leaves a citation. If it is still there in four hours, the car is towed.
Currently, the department tries to make sure the officer marking the tires is the same one who writes the ticket, Bostrack explained. If the limit were extended to 72 hours, there would be a greater chance that the same officer would not be working when the time came to ticket the car, and two officers would have to communicate about what vehicle and which tire was marked, he stated. If the citation is challenged in court, two officers would have to testify instead of one, taking up valuable staff time, Bostrack said. “Can it be done? Yeah. But does it add some difficulties? Sure,” he stated.
What about 48 hours? “If that is what the council decides would be an appropriate thing, it does shorten it up a bit … It’s probably less of an issue, but a little more than having 20 hours,” Bostrack responded.
The City Council will meet on Monday, November 6, at 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers on the third floor of city hall, 207 Lafayette Street. Contact information for council members is listed on www.cityofwinona.com.