Parking plans in place for snow

Signs have been erected in five city-owned parking lots to designate them Municipal Emergency Snow Parking Lots.

WESTFIELD – The snow flurries seen in the area this morning did not amount to anything much but were harbingers of things to come and a reminder that Jack Frost is waiting in the wings to deliver his annual harvest of snow and ice.
In the city, preparations and policies have been put in place to limit winter’s disruption of motorists’ habits and help them cope with the parking limitations caused by snowstorms.
The regulations regarding parking on the street during snow storms are straightforward but motorists who park overnight in city parking lots will have a more complicated solution to snowstorm parking problems.
Denise Carey, the city’s parking clerk, explains that the city’s off-street parking lots will be open during business hours, despite snowstorms, and plowing contractors, except for passes to ensure that the drive-thru area of the lots remain clear, will not remove snow from the lots until after business hours.
Then, Carey explains, five designated snow lots will be cleared first so that motorists who need to park in city lots overnight may move their vehicles to one of the snow lots until the other municipal lots have been cleared.
The emergency snow parking lots are the Casimir Street lot near the city owned former St. Casimir’s Church, the Main Street lot usually available for restaurant patrons, the River Walk lot on Meadow Street, The Depot Square lot on the north side of the river and the nearby Railroad Avenue lot.
Carey said that there are enough parking spaces in the five lots to accommodate, barely, all the overnight parkers.
She said that the five lots include a total of 156 parking spaces and 146 overnight parking permits have been issued.
Since many of the overnight parkers are Westfield State University students, Carey said that she hopes that the bulk of the winter’s snow storms occur during the four week period in December and January when WSU is not in session so that the competition for the available parking spaces can be lessened.
Carey said that a telephone line – 642-9411– has been established so motorists may call to find the status of the parking lots.
A recording will advise motorists if a snow emergency has been declared and when the snow lots will be open for overnight parking. Parking in the snow emergency lots will be prohibited until those lots have been cleared and an emergency has been declared.
Once the business day ends and the cars parked in the downtown lots have moved, those lots will be cleared of snow.
Then, the same phone number will also be used to advise motorists and they will then be required to move their vehicles back to the cleared parking lots, usually by 8 a.m., so the overnight snow emergency lots can be cleaned and ready for daytime use. Carey said that she is hoping to give motorists “no less than an hour’s notice” when it is time to move vehicles back to the daytime lots.
Carey said, “We’re proud to have this plan” although she acknowledged, “it’s not perfect.”
She said the parking situation is much better than last year when there was no plan and the city avoided serious parking problems only because of a dearth of snow.
The plan hinges on motorists calling the snow emergency number as often as necessary to keep up with changing conditions.
“The most important thing a motorist will do is keep calling the emergency number and it will instruct them,” Carey said.
She said that motorists who have questions or problems should feel free to call her office at 572-6202.
Motorists who park on city streets will have a comparatively simple task to comply with city regulations.
A city ordinance prohibits parking on the street any time that a snow emergency has been declared by the mayor or the Department Of Public Works superintendent. The parking ban will extend until the snowstorm has ended and the street in question has been plowed.
Motorists who normally park on the street are advised to park elsewhere before they go to bed if a snowstorm is expected overnight.
Confirmation of a snow parking ban can be obtained by calling city offices including the DPW at 572-6267, the police department at 562-5411 x8; the city parking clerk at 572-6202 x2; the mayor at 572-6201 or by checking the local television or radio stations.

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