By Sandi Latimer, Staff Writer
The issue of heavy snows and parked cars came to a head Feb. 17 when five West Jefferson residents complained to village council about their cars being towed and paying steep fees to retrieve them.
Tonya Kean, Gary Bolin, Pete and Rhonda Berry, and Steve Cilli said their vehicles were towed from streets to make it easier for plows to clear snow.
Kean said two of her family’s cars were towed Feb. 13 without notification; she spent $540 to retrieve them. She also noted that no snow emergency had been declared.
“Couldn’t we at least have notification before cars are towed?” she asked.
She also said the tires on the vehicles were not chalked. Marking tires with chalk shows police officers that cars had not been moved for more than 24 hours.
Kean said she paid a fine and court costs of $120 and a towing fee of $150 for each car.
“It’s a hardship,” said Kean, the mother of four children. “We have to go to court Feb. 26, and that means I’ll have lost two days work and my husband a day and a half.”
Councilman Ray Martin said he understood Kean’s situation because he, too, had his car towed.
A notice was posted on the village’s website, www.wjohio.org, stating that as of Feb. 11, several vehicles were still impeding the work of plowers cleaning up after the heavy snowfall of Feb. 4-5. As many as 30 cars were towed.
Council members and the village law director, Ron Parsons, received complaint calls from affected residents. Some asked for relief, but didn’t get it.
“Couldn’t someone have come to the door to tell us to move the vehicles or put a notice on the door?” Pete Berry asked.
Police Officer Matt Stevers said the police department is not required to issue notification before towing a vehicle. He said the street department had to dig out some of the cars before they could be towed.
The fine for overtime parking is $10, a fee adopted back in 1989. It was adopted at a time when mayor’s courts were in operation, explained council member Doug Eakins. Those are no longer in operation, and people are cited into Madison County Municipal Court in London where court costs run $110.
Garver thanked the residents for showing up and sharing their stories.
“I wish there was something I could do, but what’s done is done,” said Garver, indicating there is nothing council can do to ease the costs the residents are facing.
“We’re going to have to write a policy that explains how it is done,” he said of procedures to follow concerning long-term parking that hampers street snow removal.
Garver recommended a meeting of council’s public service committee while Martin suggested a study by the police committee.
Residents who voiced complaints wanted immediate help, but Garver said nothing could be done that would take effect before the court dates.
“I’m going to talk to the mayor and police chief,” Garver said.
Neither Mayor Darlene Steele nor Police Chief Terry Ward was present at the council meeting. Steele was absent for health reasons, and Ward was on vacation.
In other business, council approved the expenditure of $63,000 for a driveby radio read system for water and sewer readings. Metzger said 200 meters have been installed so far with 1,400 more to go. The system will allow crews to take readings from a vehicle, then download the information to a computer for bill generation.
“We can have the entire village read in an hour,” Metzger said.
Council also approved items related to improvements at the wastewater treatment plant. The village will pay $15,100 to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for a plan review of the project. Council also appropriated $264,872 to use for Ohio Public Works Commission and Ohio Water Development Authority grants and loans for the design phase.
Council’s next meeting is set for 7 p.m. March 3 in the village administration building. The Ralph Parsons Award will be presented prior to the meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the town hall entryway.