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Parking Scofflaws Beware: Wakefield Councilors Approve ‘Wakefield Parking Warrior’ and New Enforcement

Mar 06, 2019 08:12AM ● By Lisa Redmond

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WAKEFIELD – The town could be taking aim at parking scofflaws armed with a new weapon, the “Wakefield Parking Warrior,” a handheld device that can scan a license plate with one swipe and print out a parking ticket with a push of a button.

The Town Council recently approved the purchase of two parking scanners at a one-time cost of $2,500 each, to wage war on those parking scofflaws who stay too long in precious parking spaces in the downtown business area.

In a plan researched and proposed by Councilor Ed Dombroski, Jr. the council voted 5-2 (with councilors Julies Smith-Galvin and Mehreen Butts opposed) to buy the devices and to add into the FY20 town budget money to hire two part-time, civilian parking enforcer attendants at $17.50 per hour.

If the Town Meeting voters approve the FY20 budget, the new parking enforcement program will start sometime after July 1.

As part of this new enforcement effort, the council unanimously agreed to increase time limit on posted parking spaces to two hours from one hour and install new signs in designated areas.

Dombroski explained that with the limited number of parking spaces in Wakefield’s commercial areas, parking turnover is key. Business owners have complained that cars will be parked for hours, but with no consistent enforcement of the parking rules there is no incentive for these parking scofflaws to move.

Parking in Wakefield is free. But parking violators pay the following for violations:

$25 (Group A)

$50 (Group B)

$125 (Group C)

$100 (Group D)

Overtime parking, double parking, crosswalk, fire lane, impeding street cleaning, etc.

Parking within 10 feet of a fire hydrant, blocking snow removal.

Parking in a handicapped spot.

Parking in a bus stop.

With the help of the Wakefield police, Dombroski explained the town collected $36,000 in parking fines in FY18 with police officers issuing tickets. So far in FY19, which begin on July 1, 2018, the town has collected $19,000 in fines.

Dombroski stressed that using police officers to enforce parking rules is “not the best use’’ of officers’ training, education and expertise. There is spotty parking enforcement because officers are pulled away for other policing priorities.

Hiring two part-time parking personnel 19 hours each per week at $17.50 per week, the potential revenue being generated would be at least “budget neutral’’ and possibly a revenue generator, he said.

Dombroski recommended paying $17.50 per hour after compiling a chart of what area towns pay their attendants.  Lexington is the lowest paying $13.88 per hours, while Andover fills the meter at $21.42 per hour. Stoneham pays its attendants $16.50 per hour that town issues 53 tickets per day.

Two part-time parking enforcers would cost about $48,000 per year, including salaries and supplies. To break even, eight parking violations from Group A (overtime parking) would need to be issued per day for five days per week to cover the cost, Dombroski said.

Parking enforcement is 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., except for holidays and weekends.

While Smith-Galvin understands the need for such enforcement, she was leery about hiring two part-time people. “I’m not convinced we will get the violations (to support the program),’’ adding she has serious concerns the costs will balloon to $40,000 to $50,000, she said.

Councilor Paul DiNocco said he is confident this parking enforcement program will yield fines of at least $80,000 per year.

If the program is “robust,’’ Police Chief Richard E. Smith told the council, the attendants will be “giving a lot more than 7.5 tickets per day.’’

When asked about transportation for the parking enforcers, Dombroski said, the Wakefield Municipal Gas & Light Department has offered a “unique’’ experiment by providing an electric car for the program.

Smith-Galvin added this program may be “a little premature’’ since the town has to erect parking signs and educate the public about the changes. Butts agreed. “We talk about communication and education, but we haven’t done it. The signage is important,’’ she said.

Dombroski agreed there needs to be an awareness campaign before the enforcement starts on July 1.

Council Chairman Peter May said he believes this is going to be a “financially sound’’ program but admits it may need some “tweaking’’ along the way.

Santos said she has heard the parking complaints from business owners. “We should try it and see what happens,’’ she said.

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