By Joseph Domelowicz Jr.
For the Transcript
Facing a multi-million dollar budget deficit for next fiscal year and an uphill climb to win support for a Proposition 2 1/2 override next month, town officials announced this week they have severed ties with the Cambridge-based parking enforcement agency that had been running the town’s resident parking sticker program for the past two years. Officials are currently also working on a plan to have local police officers write the parking tickets overnight.
“We have taken the administration and processing of the resident sticker program in-house, and we are negotiating with the Winthrop Police to allow reserve police officers to work overnight shifts to enforce the program,” Acting Town Manager Larry Holmes said on Tuesday. “From now on, the $5 sticker fee will go right to the town and there will be no fee increases. Administration of the program will be handled with existing personnel at Town Hall, and all revenues raised from parking violations will also remain with the town.”
For the past two years, MMA Inc., a parking enforcement company of Cambridge has been processing applications and distributing the stickers to local residents, while also handling the overnight parking enforcement aspect of the program. Under the terms of the contract, Holmes said MMA received $3 from every sticker sold through the program and up to 65 percent of the revenues raised by the parking tickets.
As a result of the town’s decision to manage the program, all proceeds raised from the sale of stickers will stay with the town, as will revenues raised from parking tickets.
“The town accountant [Michael Bertino] has been looking for ways to maximize our revenues, and this is one way we think we can maximize the revenues being raised,” said Holmes. “The goal is not to write more parking tickets, but to hold onto the revenues raised from parking tickets already being written.”
The next step will be to come to agreement with the Police Officers Union, to allow reserve police officers to work overnight shifts, on dedicated parking enforcement detail. Holmes said the reason behind using reserve officers is they aren’t full-time employees and therefore won’t cost the town as much, because they won’t have to be paid a full salary and benefits. Under this arrangement, the reserve officers would be paid as hourly employees and most likely won’t work full-time hours.
As an added advantage, Winthrop reserve officers would be trained, sworn officers, so that if an emergency requires more than the usual overnight staffing, the reserve officers could be pulled off parking enforcement to briefly assist the full-time officers working their shifts.
“I don’t want to comment on the possibility of using reserve officers in that role, at this time because that is still a point that is in negotiations,” said Executive Officer Lieutenant Terence Delehanty. “However, the main goal is to get that [parking enforcement] program back into the Winthrop Police Department. “Bringing this program back into the department, regardless of how it is staffed, will give us the flexibility that we need to operate more efficiently on that shift.”
Delehanty noted that with the budget cuts that have already been made in the department, the overnight, a.m. shift has already been hurt by staff reductions.
“In extreme cases, this would give us the ability to add another officer or two during an emergency, and then they would be released back to the parking enforcement duty,” said Delehanty. “The town could get more bang for its buck.”