by Allison Sayer for Seward City News-
Many Seward residents have recently woken up to find something new on their windshield: a parking citation. More than 50 citations have been issued between the hours of 2 and 8 am for violations of the new parking rules for 3rd, 4th, and 5th avenues.
For now, most of these citations are just warnings, with no fine imposed. According to Chief of Police Tom Clemons, they are meant to help educate the public about the new policy. At some point this winter, the department will move from “warning” citations to regular citations that do carry a fine.
The parking regulations were changed by request of the City of Seward Public Works Department. They requested an alternate side of the street parking pattern on 4th and 5th avenues to improve their ability to plow.
On Tuesdays, no one may park on the east side of the street between 2 and 8am. On Thursdays, the other side of the street is off limits during the same hours. This policy is modeled after similar policies in many small cities, including Sitka.
This idea had been talked about in previous years as a possible solution to messy downtown streets in the winter time. Public Works Director Doug Schoessler says, “This year we decided let’s just put the signs up and get them going.” The Public Works Department asked the Police Department to consistently issue citations in order to help get the policy established.
Chief Clemons supports the new policy wholeheartedly. “I’ve been here for 15 years,” he says, “and I’ve seen it get ugly out there.” Chief Clemons described prior years where plows attempted to work around cars parked along the sides of the road. This was difficult for operators and created large snow berms in the middle of the roadway.
Public Works Director Doug Schoessler says there has already been a huge improvement in the city’s effectiveness cleaning up the streets. In past years, it was nearly impossible for plows to clear the edges of the road near the curbs on the busy downtown streets. There were always several cars lining each side of the roadway. As a result, snow that merchants shoveled off of the sidewalks piled up and blocked the storm drains. Water with nowhere to go eventually turned into ice.
The new policy creates opportunities for the plows to clean up each side of the road at least once per week. Schoessler says the drainage issue is vastly improved over prior years.
It seems that Seward residents are trainable. Police and public works employees have noticed that compliance with the new pattern is rapidly improving. The streets are easier to plow, and they are less choked with snow berms and ice.
The city’s new parking regulations have made such an improvement on the roadways so far that the state has decided to follow suit. 3rd Avenue, which is maintained by the state Department of Transportation, now has the same parking regulations that 4th and 5th Avenues have.
Schoessler is pleased with the public’s response to the new regulations, saying “The folks have [shown] really good cooperation and we’re always thankful.”