Parking is often a hot topic, and the city of Bingen is wading into the issue again with a public hearing set for Tuesday, May 18.
The hearing is designed to find out from local citizens what changes, if any, they would like to see to current parking regulations around the city.
During the Bingen City Council's May 4 meeting, the council members could not reach consensus on what changes they would like to make, so they are hoping the public can steer the city in the right direction.
"We need to hear from the public -- what do they think will work best," said Bingen city administrator Jan Brending.
Bingen Mayor Betty Barnes said it was important that citizens register their views before the council votes on making any changes.
"We always have a public hearing before an ordinance, so people have a chance to speak if it's an important issue," Barnes explained. "And we usually have two meetings if it's an important issue -- and this one is important."
Issues to be decided include the parking times and days, the number of hours to limit parking to, and penalties for those breaking the rules.
Council member Laura Mann added that the council was not reaching any agreement about how to proceed as everyone had different views.
"There is no consensus on this topic at all, so let's put it out there and see what the people say," Mann said.
The city has prepared four general options for consideration:
Option 1: Leave the parking as is, with two-hour parking spaces, 9 a.m.-7 p.m., every day;
Option 2: Have two-hour parking spaces, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday;
Option 3: Have three-hour parking, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday;
Option 4: No parking restrictions, except for the existing 30- and 15-minute zones.
Council member Guillermo Fisch said he liked "Option 4" -- essentially, there would be no parking restrictions at all.
"Let's make this a friendly town. There is parking; you can find parking," Fisch said. "We are not New York City. You can find parking within 100 yards of any place in town."
Mann rejected the idea that people wouldn't walk a block or two to get to a store they wanted to get to.
"You'll walk a lot farther inside Wal-Mart than anywhere in downtown Bingen," she said.
Councilor Sandi Dickey responded that if there are no time limits on parking spaces, it might be difficult for employees around town to find places to park.
"I don't care," Fisch responded.
Demonstrating the city's lack of agreement on how to proceed, Mayor Barnes said she thought Option 4 was the weakest of the options.
"I say we take Option 4 out," Barnes said.
There may also be changes to the penalties for parking violations. Currently, the existing ordinance shows that there will be a $100 maximum for violations, with no minimum. The City Council is considering instead initiating a minimum fine of $25, with a of $40.
One of the key considerations the city is looking at is the cost of changing all the signs around town to reflect any changes that are made.
To save money, the city is considering removing the existing parking signs -- there are 68 parking signs in Bingen -- and having them resurfaced with the new information. Although the final cost will depend on how many signs need to be altered, City Hall staff estimated that if the city reuses its existing signs. it would cost approximately $600 -- not including the shipping charges or taxes.
"If we go to three-hour limit signs and it's not working, and you want to go back to two-hour limits, there's going to be a mutiny," Brending said.
The public hearing on options for parking will begin on May 18 at 7 p.m., in the City Council meeting room at Bingen City Hall.
The second public hearing, and possible adoption of proposed parking amendments, is tentatively scheduled for June 1.