– By Joseph Domelowicz
Despite the fact that it is has been a week since any new fallen snow has landed in Winthrop, the winter parking ban has remained in effect throughout the town, causing angst and aggravation for residents who need on-street parking for their vehicles.
However, Public Works Director Dave Hickey said this week that his department is working closely with the fire and police departments to find relief for frustrated residents.
“Certainly, the parking ban has people complaining and we do understand the inconvenience it causes, especially since we rely on on-street parking for about 70 percent of our vehicles here in town, but this is really a public safety issue, and one that the fire department has felt strongly about,” said Hickey.
Hickey pointed to an incident on Cottage Hill last weekend, when a fire was reported following a lightning strike on Saturday night.
“Fortunately, the parking ban was in effect and the fire department was able to get to the house and they were even able to set up the ladder truck to reach the roof of the building,” explained Hickey.
When firefighters tapped into the nearest fire hydrant to begin fighting the fire, they discovered that the line had little water pressure due to a leak beneath it. Because the parking ban was in effect, they were able to move to the next hydrant without any obstacles and their response to the fire was not greatly affected.
“That incident was a success story. They were able to put out the fire without it spreading to the second floor from the third floor. However, after they were finished fighting the fire, it took them more than an hour to get off the hill, because some of the people parking on side streets nearby had ignored the parking ban,” said Hickey. “The fear is that if the parking ban is removed and people don’t pay attention to where they are parking, the next time they might not be able to respond in time. Whether it be a fire or a medical call, it’s important that streets remain passable for emergency vehicles.”
Unfortunately, due to the near record snow fall totals in January and the frequency of the storms, many roads and streets in town have not been able to be plowed or cleared curb to curb. With 45 miles of roadway in Winthrop, that is roughly 90 miles of curb that has to be cleared in order to lift the parking ban entirely.
“What I really need is five days of warm weather, like we had on Saturday and Monday, but in February that is probably not going to happen,” said Hickey.
Public works crews have continued to work daily at snow removal operations, taking the snow and ice built up along the side of major roads and removing it to other areas, so that they can eventually allow at least a partial removal of the parking ban.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have anything to report yet, but this is all public safety driven and we’re hoping, that by working with the police and fire departments, we’ll be able to open 20 or 30 or 40 streets to parking, which would help relieve some of the pressure being put on by the ban.”
Hickey also noted that in his discussions with local police and parking enforcement, the town realizes that people still have their lives to lead.
“We’re not out trying to ticket or tow every time someone parks in front of their house to unload groceries or drop their children off, but at the same time, if you park so that a police cruiser cannot get between your car and the snow bank on the other side of the road, you’re probably going to get towed,” he said.