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Council continues review of parking dispute

Staff writer

Peabody City Council discussed a parking issue on West Fourth Street and complaints about the city’s inoperable vehicle ordinance when the council met for its year-end meeting Dec. 30.

Fourth Street, west of Poplar Street, is narrow and does not allow sufficient space for people to park on both sides. The street has no curb or gutter in front of the residential properties.

One resident, Janie Hampton, has installed a low fence made of railroad ties along the front of her property to prevent people from pulling off the street and parking on her lawn. The fence is on the city right-of-way.

Residents across the street, Brian and Tammy Whiteside, want her to remove the fence to allow parking. They have trees, yard art, and personal property on the city easement in front of their own house but have indicated a willingness to remove the items.

After the problem was brought to the council Nov. 25, Peabody Police Chief Bruce Burke was instructed to attempt to mediate the issue. At the Dec. 30 meeting, Burke passed out a written report reviewing his conversations with both property owners.

Burke said the city could create a no parking zone on one side of the street, not allow parking on either side, force all property owners to remove all items off the city right-of-way, assess a special tax to all Fourth Street property owners to widen the street and install curb and guttering, or do nothing.

Burke’s report said Brian Whiteside threatened a lawsuit and media coverage.

“We are instructed early in our training that if someone starts talking about legal action, we are not to respond but are to leave and turn the issue over to our legal people,” he told the council. “That was where I left it with the Whitesides.”

Council members reviewed the report and instructed City Administrator Mac Manning to contact the city attorney and get a recommendation before making a further attempt to mediate the matter.

A second issue carried over from a past meeting was review of the city’s policy about inoperable vehicles.

The ordinance states that a vehicle must be tagged, insured, and operable if it is visible from a city street. Otherwise, it is to be completely enclosed in a structure or behind a privacy fence.

Police need to see the vehicle moved on occasion to know it is operable. This has caused problems because there is no definition of how far it needs to be moved or how often.

After a citation was issued to Alice Morris, she attended a November council meeting to question what her responsibility was to prove that a vehicle was operable.

Burke was instructed to review the ordinance with the city prosecutor.

He reported Dec. 30 that the city could specify the frequency for moving the vehicle.

The council agreed to a six-month interval. Burke said if an officer challenged the owner and actually found the vehicle was not operable, a citation could still be issued.

In other business:

  • No council or public comments were made at a public hearing to hear and answer taxpayer objections relating to proposed amended use of funds. The amendment was approved by the council as the maximum expenditures for the general, water, sewer, and refuse funds.
  • The council approved entering a 10-year contract with Waste Connections for refuse and recycling pickup. Waste Connections will charge the city $9.75 per month for a 95-gallon trash cart and $9.25 per month for a 65-gallon. The city will add a surcharge to the cost of each container. Prices for the same size carts in a shorter contract period would have been higher.
  • The council approved cereal malt beverage licenses for Peabody Lanes and Peabody Market.
  • Manning asked the council to review the city’s staff vacancies. He thinks vacancies in the front office and the public works department handicap existing personnel. No action was taken, but council members agreed to schedule a work session in January.
  • The council approved a request from employees Stephanie Ax, Bruce Burke, Harold Brooks, and Ronnie Harms to carry over unused vacation time into 2014.

The next meeting will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 15 in the city building.

Last modified Jan. 9, 2014

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