Starting with the new year, motorists parking in the city limits of Bingen and White Salmon will need to be more careful about their parking habits.
With unanimous votes in their respective cities, the Bingen City Council and the White Salmon City Council each agreed last week to fund a full-time parking enforcement clerk.
The Bingen-White Salmon Police Department currently has a half-time clerk working in the office. This agreement expands that position to full-time, with the additional 20 hours dedicated to parking.
The employee hired for the parking patrol will be under the direction of the chief of police.
"This takes the clerk we currently have and has her doing parking enforcement as well," explained Police Chief Bruce Brending. "This work doesn't require the person to be a qualified police officer. But at this point, just the ability to expand the clerk's position will fill a role currently needed. It's not like having another police officer, but this is a good move forward."
"This is a way for us to get some parking enforcement," said White Salmon Mayor David Poucher. "We're going to be doing enforcement."
Poucher said Bingen in particular is in need of enforcement, as there are increasing complaints about people ignoring parking restrictions -- especially in the business district.
"Bingen has been begging for parking enforcement," Poucher explained. "People have abused it, and businesses and people are upset with it. They've said please enforce it -- and that's what we're going to do."
The expanded clerical position will be advertised in-house to current employees of the city of White Salmon. Advertising for the job will start after Thanksgiving, and will be open for about a week.
The person hired to fill the position will begin parking enforcement duties as of Jan. 1, 2010.
"The clerk will enforce all parking ordinances, and will carry a police radio," Poucher said. "The intent is to have the person walking, to keep an eye on what's going on."
Bingen City Council member Betty Barnes, who will take over as mayor of Bingen in January, said she wanted to make sure that expanding the hours of the police clerk would not work against the objective of hiring another officer for the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department -- which is currently short of full staffing by two officers.
The interlocal law enforcement services agreement between the two cities calls for a police force of eight officers and a chief. Right now, however, the department has six officers and a chief. Budget constraints have prevented the hiring of the additional officers.
"If we agree to the parking clerk -- we need to be sure this is in no way ever counted toward a seventh officer," Barnes said.
The total cost to the cities, including salary and benefits, works out to be $44,907. As per the joint police contract, the city of Bingen pays about 25 percent of that amount, and White Salmon the rest.
"I think it's a good move," said Poucher. "Hood River, which has about 5,000 residents, has two parking enforcement officers. Between Bingen and White Salmon, we have about 3,000 people. I just think it's part of what needs to be done in a city of this size."
Police Chief Brending said he was pleased with the votes by the council members of the respective cities.
"I'd like to thank the councils for moving forward with parking assistance," Brending said.