by Sarah Squires
Parking in Winona might be complicated for drivers, but Monday night's City Council meeting showed that it's a handful for the city, too.
The council discussed time limits on a handful of parking stalls with business owners requesting to change current two-hour spots to 30-minute stalls. Three such downtown stalls were narrowly approved for the change, after discussions centered on whether the city should wait to see what its comprehensive plan might hold for parking. The comprehensive plan, which is currently being worked on with a consultant by a Steering Committee, the city's Riverfront Committee and Downtown Revitalization Committee, is expected to be presented to the council in January or February.
The council also approved handing off parking control to Winona State University's public safety staff along Huff Street, between King and Mark streets and the north side of Mark Street west of Huff. WSU will not only ticket cars along those roadways, but will also keep the revenue from the tickets. Seven of the stalls along those streets will change to 30 or 10-minute spots, after each corresponding business owner or resident was asked what time limits they preferred.
Winona Police Chief Frank Pomeroy said that it was hard for the city to enforce parking time limits in that area because the parking ticket staff is on-foot. Shorter-timed spots in the downtown area were manageable, he said, but that far away from downtown was hard to enforce. "This really was a good compromise," he said.
"Finally, we may have a solution," said council member Gerry Krage, adding that the issue of changing the time limits in that area had been heated in the past.
Council member Tim Breza stated his concern about those blocks on Huff Street that aren't as wide as the rest of the street. He said the narrowness of the street, along with allowing parking and frequent pedestrian crossings, added up to a public safety issue. "Sooner or later, we're going to have an accident there," he said. He and Mayor Jerry Miller agreed that the city might want to look at widening the street in that area in the future.
Four downtown business owners requested changing two-hour parking spots near their businesses to 30-minute spots. Jack Warnemunde (State Farm) and Don Jackels (Don's Doors) requested that two stalls on Johnson Street north of Third Street be pared down to 30-minute stalls to keep business moving along their shared building site.
Council members Debbie White, Mayor Miller and Breza voted against the change, stating that it would be a good idea to wait and look at the bigger parking picture when the city's comprehensive plan is revealed in January or February.
Miller asked if the specific areas could be discussed with the Downtown Revitalization Committee as it works to complete the comprehensive plan. City Planner Mark Moeller said that he would bring the topic to the committee.
Council member George Borzyskowski said that he supported the change. "I think, if we want businesses to come downtown, then we have to sort of help them out a bit," he said.
Warnemunde told the council that because the building he and Jackels share now houses from 100-120 employees of a neighboring business in its upstairs, parking has become more and more difficult for his clients to find.
The change in the parking time limit was approved, with council members Breza, Miller and White voting against the resolution, which was mirrored in the similar vote to change parking on Main Street south of Third Street.
The same three voted against the change in front of Twice As Nice Designs and Farrell's Barber Shop, voicing the same concerns about consulting the new comprehensive plan.
The resolution passed, but was amended for just one 30-minute stall.
Other action items of note at Monday night's meeting included:
" The city approved its 2007 budget and levy, and held a public hearing on the matter at which no one voiced a question or concern. The total budget is just under $40 million, with a $5.46 million levy, which is about 4 percent over last year's levy figures.
" The city approved a renewal of both its property and liability insurance, and its workers' compensation and accident plan for city volunteers for 2007.
" The council accepted the lowest bid for its legal publishing for 2007 from the Winona Daily News. The council amended its original motion, which called the paper the city's "official" newspaper, to call it the "publication of the city of Winona that it uses for its legal advertising." The amendment came after Krage expressed "heartburn" with calling the paper official, stating displeasure with the Daily News' editorial opinions and anonymous blog.