Bath Council holds second meeting on police issues
Bath Town Council members met on Wednesday, May 23, to follow up on an earlier meeting at which business owners discussed concerns about parking and police policies.
At the earlier meeting on May 16, more than 50 business owners and citizens crowded into council chambers to voice opinions.
By contrast, the May 23 session was between council members and representatives from Travel Berkeley Springs and Berkeley Springs-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce.
The meeting was led by Councilwoman Nancy Harvey. Councilmen Kenny Easton, Dale Lutman and David Crosby were present. Travel Berkeley Springs was represented by Sally Marshall and the Chamber of Commerce by Chuck Wheeler.
"This meeting is to assess what was talked about last Wednesday," Harvey said.
Using a large page from an easel, Harvey outlined what she felt were the main issues; attitude of public safety officers, parking and parking meters.
Harvey said this was a work in progress. Mayor Susan Webster, Police Chief James Minton and council members have been talking to and counseling police officers.
"Police have to be strict in some situations to make sure they are obeyed when asked, for instance, to step out of their vehicle," she said.
Attitude of officers
Harvey said police safety is a real concern but there must be some kind of balance. Officers should be courteous and respectful to people, she said.
"Does that include people who park at a meter and leave to find a quarter and come back and find a ticket on their car?" Wheeler asked facetiously.
In a more serious vein, Wheeler said that in a conversation with the parking enforcement officer, he was told that the officer was under pressure to write tickets.
Crosby said he hadn't heard that before and would check into it.
Wheeler said that during some traffic stops, police officers treated citizens in a discourteous and disrespectful manner.
"I don't think public safety officers should be discourteous to anyone. If this behavior continues, I think they should be gone," Crosby said.
Crosby said complaints about the police or town employees should be specific and contain date, time and place. He suggested that the town develop a procedure for anonymous complaints.
Marshall added that the program should include anonymous suggestions as well.
Harvey said the council was considering
scaling back parking enforcement on Saturday and relying more on an honor system. Council
felt some enforcement on Saturday is needed
for those who park illegally or abuse the
Marshall suggested they try less rigorous enforcement on Saturday for three months and see how it goes.
She urged council to hire a professional to conduct a parking survey.
Marshall, who is a member of the Streetscape Committee, said the committee is looking into finding a parking expert and seeing if any funding for a study is available. The Streetscape grant does not authorize spending for a traffic study, she said.
Wheeler suggested that as part of any study, town businesses be surveyed to find out how many employees need to park downtown. He noted that Wilkes Street, the lot behind BB&T and church parking lots are full almost every day.
He also suggested that parking spaces be defined with painted T's indicating the width and length of a space.
Councilman Easton agreed, he saw one woman park her car with the meter at mid-car. He asked why she parked that way and she said it was so she could see the price on the meter. Easton warned her to move the car before she got a ticket.
Marshall said the town had lost parking spaces due to the addition of new fire hydrants during the water line project. Some of those spaces will be reclaimed when old hydrants are removed.
Marshall said the report done for the Streetscape Committee by the West Virginia University Design Team noted that some businesses and residents are placing reserved parking signs in front of stores or residences. The report pointed out that parking on a street is public parking, so such signs are meaningless.
Concerning the issue of meters on Fairfax Street not being consistent with the amount of time for a quarter, Police Administrator Barbara Cirigliano said 13 meters are out for repair. Once they come back, they might offer some relief, but council saw no immediate remedy.
New warning ticket
Cirigliano handed out copies of a warning ticket that the parking enforcement officer had used on the May 18-19 weekend in lieu of a payable ticket. It read in part:
"Just a reminder, parking meters are in operation from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Saturday. Your parking meter is expired. Please remember to feed the meter during times of operation. Thank you. Have a nice day!"
Council members agreed to look into implementing the idea of an anonymous suggestion and complaint program.
They will discuss further the issue of whether to stop rigorously enforcing parking meters on Saturday and the use of a warning ticket.
Council will also consider painting lines to designate parking spaces and investigate the feasibility of a professional parking survey.
A follow up meeting will be held in three months or sooner, if requested.