Parking citation added to clear Kenai streets

  • By DAN BALMER
  • Thursday, November 6, 2014 9:48pm
  • News

Since the beginning of October Kenai police have left warnings to residents who park on the street overnight to make way for plow vehicles.

While the snow hasn’t stuck around yet, a Kenai Municipal Code prohibits people from leaving any vehicles unattended on city streets between the hours of 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. from October to May. During this period, nightshift police officers have attempted to clear the streets to allow room for crews that plow in the early morning, said Kenai Police Chief Gus Sandahl.

The Kenai City Council Wednesday passed an amendment to that ordinance adding a $50 fine, plus a $10 surcharge to residents who have ignored repeated warnings. Sandahl said by establishing a set fine for violators, officers now have “improved options available.”

According to a memo from Sandahl to Kenai City Manager Rick Koch, officers currently utilize three options to clear the streets. The first is to place a warning tag on the vehicle. If people don’t respond to the warnings after several notices, officers knock on the door to wake up residents to move the vehicle. The third option is to tow the vehicle.

Sandahl said towing a vehicle is a last resort and they haven’t come to that point this year. When snow starts to accumulate and vehicles continue to impede the clearing of the streets, the fine is a significantly cheaper option than a $300 tow and impound bill, he said.

“Some vehicle owners aren’t responsive to warning tags and, at times, their vehicles are towed to eliminate the obstruction they present to snow removal vehicles,” Sandahl said. “After hours tow bills can be expensive and include the inconvenience of retrieving vehicles out of impound.”

Sandahl said no set fine amount previously existed for the violation, but officers had the option to issue a citation, which would require a mandatory court appearance and a fine up to $500. Officers hadn’t used this option in the past, he said.

According to the ordinance, establishing a standard fine eliminates the need for an arraignment and saves public resources.

The ordinance doesn’t eliminate the option for officer to call for a tow truck, but Sandahl said he expects the citation would be used as a more reasonable alternative for people that haven’t responded to previous warnings.

Wednesday’s council meeting was the final one for Mike Boyle and first for Henry Knackstedt, who was elected to the council in the Oct. 7 election. Knackstedt, who had served on the planning and zoning commission and airport commission, was sworn into office Wednesday.

Boyle, who received a gold-plated bowl in recognition for his nine years on the council, said he enjoyed the experience of representing the citizens of Kenai and wished Knackstedt good luck in his new position.

The city council scheduled two work sessions to discuss playground upgrades to Municipal Park and to review the 2014 dipnet report. The council will meet with the parks and recreation department on Dec. 4 at 6 p.m. with the goal of reaching a final decision on new playground equipment for the 2-5 and 5-12 age groups.

Council member Terry Bookey said he requested the work session to make sure everyone involved is on the same page so the “Enchanted Forest” themed project could move forward.

The council scheduled a work session to review the 2014 dipnet report for Nov. 20 at 6 p.m. Koch said the council would have the report a week ahead of the meeting.

The council postponed two action items involving an agreement with Hilcorp Alaska to the Dec. 3 meeting. One was a special use permit between the city and Hilcorp to allow parking of 37 non-commercial vehicles in designated areas at the Kenai Municipal Airport.

In a memo to city council, Koch said Hilcorp requested the city provide parking spaces to accommodate their personnel involved in shift work on platforms on the west side of the Cook Inlet. The permit fee is $4,000 for the 37 parking spaces, according to the permit.

The other action item postponed was for consent to sublease with Dan Pitts and Hilcorp Alaska for freight facility, parking and storage at the airport.

In his closing comments, Vice Mayor Ryan Marquis said he attended the funeral of Kenai resident Corene Hall, who died on Oct. 29. Hall, who was 55, retired from the Kenai City Clerk’s office this summer.

“Seeing number of people there it was clear she touched many people in this community and will be missed,” he said.

Reach Dan Balmer at daniel.balmer@peninsulaclarion.com

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