Parking ban causes problems after storms

MILFORD – When plow drivers tackle snow-filled streets after a storm, snow and ice aren’t the only challenges.

A big problem is parked cars that get in the way of the plows.

Department of Public Works Director Rick Riendeau told selectmen last week that the town might want to restore the old November-to-April overnight ban on parking along town roads because vehicles are a big headache for plow drivers.

“We have a lot of issues with parking all over town,” he said.

To clean the roads, plow drivers have to go back multiple times until vehicles have left the area, Riendeau said.

Five years ago, the town amended its winter parking rules, replacing the Nov. 15 to April 15 ban with a 1-6 a.m. ban that only goes into effect on nights when roads need to be plowed.

A blinking light on the Middle Street side of Town Hall was set up to let drivers know when the ban is in effect. The light goes on no later than 4 p.m. for that night. There also are winter parking ban notices on the town website and an email alert message to those who sign up for them.

The ordinance was changed in 2012 for the convenience of downtown residents and shop owners, and it covers any roadway and most public parking lots.

The Police Department works with the DPW to notify vehicle owners, and sometimes vehicles are towed, but it continues to be a problem, Riendeau said.

“The light was a good step,” he said, “and we need to improve on it.”

Adding more notification lights or restoring the blanket November-April rule were two changes he suggested.

Police Chief Michael Viola told selectmen that the 1-6 a.m. rule creates a dilemma for police, because it doesn’t give them authority after 6 a.m., even if roads still need to be plowed. And some apartment complexes move all of their cars onto the street after a storm, he said.

The ban means drivers are subject to fines, and vehicles can be towed without notice and at the owner’s expense for tow charges and possible storage fees.

Selectmen, who told Riendeau his department is doing a good job, asked him and the chief to keep working on a solution.

Town Clerk Joan Dargie mentioned that after the recent back-to-back snowstorms, a delivery truck driver told her Milford had the cleanest streets in the area.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.