Less than a year after undergoing some major changes, including requiring applicants to pay for the installation of the signs and designating the spaces as parking for the applicant only, Tamaqua's handicap parking policy is reverting back to most of the provisions of the old ordinance. Councilman Dan Evans, chairman of the parking and traffic committee, suggested that the $120 fee that was required with the application for a space be eliminated. The $120 was to help defray the cost of the installation of the signage, and had not been charged prior to February.
Along with the $120, the applicant was granted the sole right to park in the space. This was a deviation from past practice which allowed anyone with a handicap placard to park in the space. "We felt that due to the ownership and enforcement issues, it was impossible to enforce," said Evans. "The other reason is that it is not in the best interests of council to be selling parking spaces throughout the community." The spaces will once again be available to anyone who has a placard, not necessarily the person who applied for the space.
Councilmen John Trudich and Brian Connely voted against the changes. Connely questioned the fact that the borough limits handicap spaces to two per block in most cases and the change can result in someone who applies for a space and needs it to park a handicap vehicle not being able to park there. Several audience members complained that people who do not appear to be handicapped are using the spaces. "You have young people, and grandma or grandpa says, here's my card, run to the store," said Michelle Mehallic. Ray Sell, whose request for a placard was denied later in the meeting, said that he has observed people giving their cards to other people to park in handicap spaces.
Council president Micah Gursky said that it is not up to the borough who gets the placards. "We're not going to start shaking people with placards down," he said. Council voted to refund the $120 that was paid by approximately eight applicants since February. "It's an unmanageable situation," said Evans. "I'd rather work it out with the six or eight people who thought they had a privileged space than the rest of the universe that's trying to park in that space."
Council then denied requests to install signs at 656 Arlington Street and 324 W. Rowe Street, based on the fact that the maximum number of signs have already been placed in those blocks.
In other business, Mehallic presented a check for $200 to council to help defray the costs of the Christmas lights at the South Ward Playground. Mehallic said that the children in the area had helped to raise the money.
Robert Jones, the public works director, advised council that two more properties have connected to the sewer since the last meeting, leaving a total of 84 inspections completed, 23 lines connected, and 41 lines from 33 properties still needing to be connected. He said that three properties have had lines run to the property line, however, need indoor plumbing changes to be made in order to complete the connection.
Jones also mentioned that the new traffic signals may not be compatible with the borough's generators and in the event of a power outage, there may be no provisions for traffic control. "The LED lights may not draw enough power to bring up the generators," he said. The problem may require the additional purchase and installation of battery packs. Jones said that he will present council with a solution by the next meeting.
Pat Freeh-Stefanek submitted a letter requesting consideration to fill the seat vacated by former councilman Steve Tertel, who was elected in November, but has since moved to Florida.
Council will advertise the 2012 meeting schedule, which will follow the same schedule as 2011.
Council approved a request from Linda Yulanavage to close a section of East Broad Street for the annual New Year's Eve Ball-rise and celebration.