Several motorists appealed parking violations during last week’s meeting of the New Canaan Parking Commission. Mariann Funch said she came to New Canaan to shop on a Monday and parked on Elm Street. The Stamford resident told the Commission during her appeal hearing that she “put the space number into the machine and paid with three quarters, slowly, one at a time.” Funch went into the store for about 45 minutes and when she came back she had a ticket, she said during the hearing, held Nov. 7 in Town Hall. Funch said after she discovered the ticket on her vehicle she went back to check the parking kiosk and noticed that there was three quarters in the refund slot, indicating that her transaction never went through.
Town officials have installed new parking signs in a residential neighborhood just south of the downtown following concerns from residents there that increased on-street parking has created a safety hazard. At the recommendation of the Traffic Calming Work Group, ‘No Parking Here To Corner’ signs have been installed toward the northern end of Marshall Ridge Road, where it intersects with Richmond Hill Road.
An administrative team that includes members of the Police, Fire, Parking and Public Works Departments, the Work Group fielded a Marshall Ridge Road resident’s request for traffic-calming following what she described as a car crash during the morning school and work rush. According to Dawn Belles, a vehicle traveling eastbound on Richmond Hill Road at about 8:10 a.m. on a recent morning struck a vehicle with a mom driving her son toward school as that car tried to exit from Marshall Ridge. “Its very lucky kids weren’t around crossing to get to the bus stop on [Marshall] Ridge,” Belles wrote in her email to traffic officials, obtained by NewCanaanite.com through a public records request. With motorists, possibly commuters, parking on both sides of the road in the morning, that end of Marshall Ridge becomes dangerously narrow, to the point where school buses sometimes have difficulty getting through, Belles said in the letter.
The volunteers who help oversee New Canaan’s Parking Bureau said this month pushed back on the idea of empowering enforcement officers to void tickets once they’ve been written.
Parking Commission Chairman Keith Richey broached the idea during the appointed body’s Sept. 4 meeting, saying that in certain cases—for example, where someone happened to be in a double-parked or otherwise mis-parked vehicle, or was unaware of a loading zone rule—it could make sense to empower the enforcement officer to retract a ticket.
Yet doing so would bring new risks, the commissioners said.
“It puts the officer on the street in an awkward position when the townsperson says look I lived in New Canaan for 39 yrs and I am a senior citizen and I am really important in New Canaan and I think you ought to waive this ticket,” Commissioner Peter Ogilvie said during the special meeting, held at Town Hall.
“Well, if the officer has the legal ability to waive right then and there on the street, the officer is going to feel pretty intimidated by some of these people. I don’t think you want to give that right to the officer on the street.”
According to appeals filed by motorists cited for violating New Canaan’s parking rules, enforcement officers often say on the street that they cannot retract a ticket once it’s printed.
Parking Manager Stacy Miltenberg said that the officers already give motorists an opportunity to move or urge a driver to correct the violation prior to issuing a ticket. “They will tell somebody to please move,” Miltenberg said. Commissioner Chris Hering said that changing the Bureau’s practice would just expose the department.
“What we try to do in our role here is to be fair and consistent and I think that we expose ourselves with further leniency,” Hering said.
The body cameras that the head of of the New Canaan Parking Bureau is seeking to acquire for enforcement officers would cost about $3,500 total and funding for them is included in this year’s budget, she said last week. The cost of storing the video the cameras record in the cloud would come to an additional approximately $1,000 per year, according to Parking Manager Stacy Miltenberg. With support from the Parking Commission at the appointed body’s prior meeting, Miltenberg put together a formal proposal for the Board of Selectmen to purchase the cameras. Miltenberg and parking enforcement officers have spoken in favor of using them to ensure that there’s an official record of interactions with motorists. “I put a proposal together, and a procedure together … for the Board of Selectmen, but at this time [First Selectman] Kevin [Moynihan] does not want to move forward with it until he gives it more thought,” she told members of the Commission during a special meeting held Sept.
New Canaan issued about 20% fewer parking tickets for the first eight months of 2018 compared to 2017, and the figure has declined again by an another approximately 5% this year, officials say. Total revenue from parking tickets also has declined in the year-to-date period since 2017, from about $263,000 to $231,000, according to new data released during Thursday’s meeting of the Parking Commission.
So far this year, the Parking Bureau itself has either dismissed or reduced the fines associated with tickets by some $52,000, according to the department’s manager, Stacy Miltenberg. “We are being lenient and merciful,” Miltenberg said at the meeting, held in Town Hall. “We are going out there and we are trying to educate people, and maybe people don’t understand but we are trying to be a kinder and gentler department. I know some people don’t think we are.