City hires consultant to study parking

Preliminary solutions include shuttles to free leases for developers

June 29, 2005

The City of Hood River has hired a consultant to find a long-term fix for the downtown parking problem.

While that study is underway, some merchants will be allowed to exchange a customer’s expired parking meter ticket for a discount waiver.

Richard Williams Consulting has been chosen to spend two months studying the parking situation in the historic district.

The Portland-based company was selected by the city council on Monday out of three firms vying for the $34,940 job.

The elected body wanted to have the consultant onboard during the tourist season when vehicle traffic was heaviest.

Some of the solutions the consultant team of traffic engineers and architects will be looking into include: shuttling employees — who take up about half of the available spaces — to work from another location.

Another idea is to provide a developer with a free long-term lease of downtown property in exchange for the construction of a parking structure.

Meanwhile, Bob Francis, city manager, wants to try a new experiment to get through the current busy season. He plans to issue Downtown Business Association (DBA) owners with five parking ticket waivers per month. These can be redeemed for $1 to provide short-term relief for clients until a solution is found for the lack of available spaces.

“We’ve never had a program like this before. We’ll try this to see if it works and if it doesn’t we’ll come back to the table and look at something else,” Francis told members of the DBA parking committee last week.

“I think we’re trying to come up with some good solutions,” said Kathy Bruce, manager of the Hood River Hotel and a committee member.

In mid-July, signs will be posted in the windows of DBA members announcing the new start of the new waiver program. The coupons issued by the city are intended to help out shoppers who have forgotten to plug the meter and can produce a receipt to show a purchase from the store. Francis said the idea is to spare customers from the regular $10 price tag for a parking violation when he/she forgets to plug the meter while browsing. However, he said the waivers will not apply to other infractions and cannot be used by employees or business owners.

The waiver program replaces the short-lived 30-minute grace period granted to motorists when a meter expired just as the enforcement officer arrived. Francis said some vehicles violated the intent of that offer by remaining in place without paying for almost two more hours, the length of time it took for the officer to make the rest of her rounds.

Chris Kelly, owner of Storm Warning, said the waivers need to be accompanied by a “warm and fuzzy” approach to enforcement. He and other DBA members have requested that deference be given to motorists whenever possible so that hostility is alleviated over the “hot button” issue of parking violations.

“It’s my experience that parking tickets are one of the most contentious things that law enforcement can do,” agreed Police Chief Bruce Ludwig, who was present at the June 23 meeting.

He said if the city had parking meters, it was the job of his officers to make sure the rules were followed equally. Kelly and other DBA committee members agreed with that position, but requested that the “benefit of the doubt” go to the customer whenever possible.

Francis hopes one day that parking issues in Hood River will be a thing of the past. He said for more than 30 years the city has been trying to find an affordable solution to the challenge that is common in most American urban centers. The starting point toward that remedy, said Francis, will most likely be found in the recommendations submitted by the chosen consultant in October. That inventory of all public and private lots and spaces within the downtown corridor will also include interviews with business owners about parking needs.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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