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Thursday, October 12, 2017 1:00 am

7th parking officer sought

Council hears of after-hours offenses

DAVE GONG | The Journal Gazette

The Fort Wayne city clerk's office could hire an additional parking control officer next year to help cover the city's neighborhoods, hospitals and shopping centers after business hours and on weekends. 

“The reason we're asking for this seventh officer is because we have been requested by neighborhoods, and to cover parking issues on second shift and on the weekends at either hospitals and shopping centers and even some neighborhoods that the police get dispatched to with parking violations after hours,” City Clerk Lana Keesling, who manages the Parking Administration budget, told City Council during budget discussions Tuesday. 

“We currently do not have any staff to respond to those, and if we had someone that could respond to them, then the police wouldn't have to.”

When it comes to illegal parking at hospitals and shopping center parking lots, Keesling said residents know parking control isn't patrolling after 5 p.m. or on weekends. 

“At the hospitals, which we also monitor, and the shopping centers, after hours people know that we're not out there writing the tickets and there's a lot of abuse,” Keesling said. “So I think it would help having that person out there to alleviate that issue and help stop the abuse of that.”

Adding another parking control officer would also allow for more flexibility in the event of vacations and other staff absences, Keesling said. 

To pay for the additional officer and cover the annual 2 percent raise for existing staff, $46,344 was included in the salary line for the Parking Administration Department's proposed 2018 budget. That increase accounts for most of the department's 17 percent budget increase from 2017. The department's total proposed budget for 2018 is $588,634. 

All told, the new officer will cost about $67,000, including salary, benefits and the cost of a new vehicle, Keesling said.

Revenue from parking violations in 2017 went up 21 percent from last year, Keesling said, adding that this year's projected revenue from citations total $567,000. That's about $94,517 in revenue generated by each of the six existing parking control officers, Keesling said.

The city is expected to hit 20,000 parking citations by year's end. 

Taking into account the average amount of revenue generated by each parking control officer, Keesling said the new position will pay for itself through citations issued. 

Revenue generated by parking violations go into the city's parking fund, Deputy City Controller Valerie Ahr told the council. 

It's unclear how much effect an additional officer will have on parking issues in the neighborhoods surrounding downtown. 

“It's not as much of a problem in a neighborhood like mine on West Rudisill because a lot of people have garages,” Jim Sack, president of the West Rudisill Neighborhood Association, said in an interview Wednesday. “There's plenty of parking.”

However, Sack said he's certain there are parking issues in neighborhoods across the city – and problems do arise occasionally on West Rudisill – but noted that he expects it's prevalent in higher-density areas like West Central, Lakeside, or the near north and south sides of Fort Wayne. 

One area landlord disagreed. 

“Outside of a blocked driveway, we don't really have a lot of issues,” said Mike Anderson, owner of West Central Properties.

Stressing that he does not speak for the West Central neighborhood in its entirety, Anderson said he has heard of complaints from other neighborhoods experiencing parking issues that include blocked driveways and cars parked on lawns. 

Keesling's proposal appeared to generate some support among the council members Tuesday. Councilman Jason Arp, R-4th, said he's received several calls complaining about parking issues in neighborhoods he represents. Some of the complaints, Arp said, include people parking in front of driveways or parking on the wrong side of the street. 

“It would help alleviate some of the calls I'm getting that there's no one on weekends or after hours to be able to take some of these parking control matters,” Arp said. 

Council President Tom Didier, R-3rd, said he's noticed some residents abusing parking at area shopping centers after hours. 

“I just saw it at a restaurant today, where somebody parked in a handicapped spot and they weren't supposed to be there,” Didier said Tuesday. “I think it's important so there's no abuse.” 

City Council plans to review and approve the 2018 city budget by Oct. 24. 

dgong@jg.net