Safety issue: Plowed-in vehicles may prompt new parking policy in Little Falls

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor

City snow plow staff has to plow around cars parked on city streets. This car was still plowed in on Second Street Southeast Wednesday.
City snow plow staff has to plow around cars parked on city streets. This car was still plowed in on Second Street Southeast Wednesday.

During the winter months, and especially this winter with a snowfall nearly every week, cars parked on city streets in Little Falls are causing an issue.

City crews have to plow around them when clearing the snow. That leaves drivers plowed in and roadways partially blocked. When the cars move, the snow remains in the roadway.

The city of Little Falls may draft a policy about parking on city streets during the winter months.

Billy Holmen told the Council he was concerned about snow plows having to plow around cars parked on city streets.

“I have a lot of people that don’t move their cars on my street,” said Holmen, who lives on Eighth Street Southeast. “The plow goes around and plows them in and when they do move them, that stuff left is usually around my mailbox and sidewalk.”

It’s a “real pain” he said to clean it up after the plow goes by as the snow is hard.

“I feel these people know they should move their vehicles,” he said. “I think the city needs to do something; give tickets or something.”

He said, “It’s been kind of ridiculous this year.”

Monday, he said, had been a pretty good day. “They (plows) went by later so most of the cars were moved.”

Holmen said when he walks around town, he sees the same problem on other streets.

When cars are plowed in on both sides of a city street, drivers must navigate between them, crossing into the other lane if needed.

Public Works Director Jerry Lochner said, that while it was too late for this season, the city could put into place a policy prohibiting parking on the street during certain hours the entire winter season.

Other communities do it, he said.

Council Member Jeremy Hanfler said vehicles were to be parked for only a 24-hour period. He said he has also known people who park in front of their neighbor’s house and move their car after plow goes through.

“The only way to get around that is no parking,” he said.

Council Member Greg Zylka questioned the safety of children, as Holmen’s home is near the school. Plowed-in vehicles may make it hazardous for school buses to maneuver and children may not be able to see around the snow when they cross the street.

Lochner said it’s becoming a bigger concern than in years past, not only on Eighth Street, but other parts of town that have more and more cars, he said.

Lochner said city staff will get a sampling of policies from other communities for the Council to review. Before a policy would be put in place, input from the Police Department and community will be sought.

Since the beginning of the year, about $48,000 of the city’s $111,000 budget for snow removal has been used, with crews continuing to remove snow evenings last week.

Lochner said the biggest expense in snow removal is sand and salt and rental of trucks. “Each night snow is removed, six – eight trucks are working. That’s $4,000 a night just to pay for truck rental,” he said.

“So far, we’re not over budget yet,” he said. “March will be spendy because snow has been removed several times.”

Whatever is left in the budget once the snow is finished, will be needed for November and December.

Little Falls City Council Briefs

In other business during its work session Monday, the Little Falls City Council:

• Heard LaLean Doucette say she was hurt by a letter from the city stating her sidewalk had not been cleared. Doucette said she clears her sidewalk regularly, but was unable to remove some ice left by the snow plow, even using a chopper;

• Heard Robin Hensel say she had not received a response from the city in regard to a Jan. 8 letter asking to paint a mural on her garage. She also asked what the city planned to do about emissions from medical helicopters that land at St. Gabriel’s Hospital, near her home, that affect the air quality in the home she’s owned since 1996;

• Heard Kris VonBerge, executive director of the Little Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), request $11,699.55 from the city’s tourism fund for advertising and 50,000 tri-fold brochures. She told the Council the spring meeting for the Minnesota Heartland Tourism Association will be held in Little Falls, April 4, and 100 bikers are coming for an overnight stay in Little Falls, June 7;

• Reviewed sign designs from Public Works Director Jerry Lochner, who is working on a master plan to update community destination signs as requested by area tourist attractions. The estimated $10,000 – $11,000 for the project would come from the tourism fund as well. The city typically retains somewhere around $20,000 in this fund, said Finance Officer Lori Kasella. Proceeds come from the food and lodging tax in the city, the majority of which goes to the CVB;

• Was asked for direction on a petition to hold the work session in the Council Chambers and be videotaped. Council Member at Large Brian-Paul Crowder said he campaigned that he wanted the work session videotaped. Council Member Frank Gosiak said he liked sitting around the table in the conference room for the work session, rather than it being an extension of the Council meeting. He said he’d like the grandstanding controlled if meetings were to be videotaped. If a lot of people show up, the Council agreed the meeting would be moved to the Council Chambers;

• Was asked for direction on a petition that Aug. 27 be declared a city-wide holiday in Little Falls, in honor of the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Crowder asked for printed information on the pact. Council Member Loren Boyum said the pact started as a good idea but is known as a failure and felt that setting a city-wide holiday date was outside of the Council’s area. Council Member Greg Zylka said he was hesitant about setting a city-wide holiday. No further action will be taken;

During its regular meeting, the Council:

• Tabled decisions on whether to change city ordinance to allow minors in bars past 7 p.m. and a city policy on requests for resolutions;

• Approved the license applications for the Little Falls Area Chamber of Commerce for the 41st annual Little Falls Arts and Crafts Fair, and to the West Side Improvement Association for the 11th annual Antiques and Collectibles Fair, both Sept. 7 – 8;

• Approved Debra Stout as an intern for the wastewater treatment facility; and

• Approved a budgeted $3,500 contribution to the Morrison County Chaplaincy program.

The Council’s next regular meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m., Monday, April 1, at City Hall.