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Willmar council nixes new parking restrictions: Temporary 'no parking' zones in southeast Willmar revoked

WILLMAR -- The temporary winter parking restrictions on five residential streets in Willmar, approved by the city Public Works and Public Safety Committee on Feb. 20, were defeated Monday night by the Willmar City Council.

Willmar Public Works photo The excess snow and parked cars along Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Streets Southeast in Willmar are making it very difficult for city plows to clear the street. The city Public Works Committee has approved parking restrictions on these streets through the winter.
Willmar Public Works photo The Willmar City Council rejected temporary parking restrictions that were being put into place on Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Streets Southeast and 15th Street Southeast. The council's Public Works Committee approved the restrictions in order to ease snowplowing efforts and the movement of other large vehicles, but the council on Monday failed to approve the required resolution.

WILLMAR - The temporary winter parking restrictions on five residential streets in Willmar, approved by the city Public Works and Public Safety Committee on Feb. 20, were defeated Monday night by the Willmar City Council.

Two different motions dealing with winter parking failed at the council meeting, leaving a lot of questions and concerns but no immediate answers on how to assist snowplow drivers trying to clear city streets without causing too much inconvenience to residents.

"I would love for the council to say 'please do what it will take to remove the snow.' Which is what we intended to do with the temporary ('no parking') signs," Public Works Director Sean Christensen said.

The parking restrictions in question were to temporarily halt any on-street parking on Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Streets Southeast and 15th Street Southeast due to the overabundance of snow, which was making the already narrow streets even harder to traverse, especially for big vehicles such as snowplows.

"It was our determination that something needed to be done in a way that would address it immediately, to allow Public Works to address it immediately and avoid creating a bigger problem," said Councilor Andrew Plowman, who is also the Public Works Committee chairman.

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The City Council resolution to approve those temporary restrictions until street conditions improve failed, even though five councilors voted yes. According to City Attorney Robert Scott, the city code says council action to enact parking restrictions requires a supermajority approval from the council of at least six "yes" votes. There is nothing in the code that allows the city to implement parking restrictions administratively or without council action, Scott said.

At Monday's meeting, Councilors Shawn Mueske and Vicki Davis were absent; thus, a vote to pass a resolution needed to be unanimous among the six council members in attendance. Councilor Rick Fagerlie was the lone dissenting vote.

With the failure of the resolution, the restrictions that were in the process of being implemented are canceled. Christensen said the "no parking" signs that had already been put up would be taken down starting Tuesday.

Fagerlie made a second motion to call a city-wide snow emergency for the remainder of the winter season, similar to what is enacted in the Central Business District after a snowfall, to allow Public Works to clear the streets as needed. Once the street was cleared, the public would be able to park on it again.

"The other way the general public didn't know anything about it," Fagerlie said. "You have to let the public speak. Calling a snow emergency is going to be for everyone."

That motion also failed to reach the six-vote majority. This time four councilors voted yes, but Councilors Julie Asmus and Plowman voted against it. Asmus said she had concerns about how the emergency would actually work.

"I don't think that is the answer. I don't physically, feasibly, realistically see that working," Asmus asked.

Christensen was not in favor of the city-wide snow emergency, feeling it would be a logistical nightmare to put into effect, at least for this season. It took Public Works years to get the Central Business District snow emergency process to run smoothly and he feels it would be extremely difficult to make a city-wide one work this year.

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There is no policy in place for a city-wide emergency, including questions about which part of the city would be done first, how long the emergency would last, etc.

"I see some pretty big hurdles," Christensen said. "There is no way we get through the entire town in one night, or two nights."

Despite the failure to pass anything Monday night, the council members did seem to agree there is a need to address the parking headaches that arise every winter. However, at the end of the discussion, there was no word on when the council would again take up the issue.

Related Topics: WILLMAR CITY COUNCILWEATHER
Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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