The Reading Parking Authority knows it is disliked.
It is known from the comments posted online and from two protests that were held last month, one outside of City Hall and a second outside of the authority’s office.
Parking Authority Executive Director Nathan Matz and authority board Chairman Tim Profit understand the frustrations and complaints.
That’s why the authority held a forum Monday evening at the DoubleTree Hotel in downtown Reading.
It was something the new board members have wanted to do since being seated in January 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic postponed those plans.
Monday’s meeting was not pleasant, at times descending into shouting and accusations. At one point, a resident got in the face of the authority’s Parking Enforcement Officer Supervisor Bart Ganster.
But at Tuesday night’s authority board meeting, one of the organizers of the parking authority protests applauded the authority’s efforts.
“It was great to see such a wonderful turnout,” said Sheila Perez. “It was sad it became unruly towards the end. But understand, that we are dealing with individuals who have had these issues for over three years now. The frustration builds up.”
The goal of the protest and the subsequent meeting was so both sides could meet and begin to defuse the tensions, Perez said.
“So, we can identify the core problems and identify some solutions,” she said.
Profit thanked Perez for her comments and agreed Monday’s meeting was constructive for the most part.
“We are definitely committed to finding a solution and each one is going to be different each block, each district,” Profit said. “We will continue to improve and adapt. We’re not going in a situation where anyone has the view they are being harassed by the Reading Parking Authority.”
Profit disagreed with the justification of unruliness that occurred Monday night.
“It approached the level of complete disrespect,” Profit said. “Honestly, it was five or six people causing it and they were not there to be constructive but disruptive.”
Profit thanked Perez for trying to keep things under control.
Tickets were a hot topic at the meeting.
Ganster explained the authority has many standard operating procedures and plans to put them on the authority’s website.
He explained what happens when someone double parks in the city.
“What our officers are supposed to do,” Ganster said, “is pull behind the car and beep three times. If no one is sitting in the car it becomes a safety issue. Especially if the car is running. So we ticket the car.”
The authority will then mail the ticket because when officers tried to place the ticket on a vehicle’s windshield, they were threatened, Ganster said.
“If we pull up and you’re unloading groceries, we move along,” he said.
Ganster admitted some tickets could be issued in error and that’s why the authority has an appeal process.
Some residents complained that the authority ticketed them while they were double parked and getting a child out of the car.
Profit admitted to the room Monday night that the authority is not without flaw.
“There’s zero reason you should get a ticket helping someone get in a car,” he said.
He added that he does not like enforcement and wants to do it as little as possible.
“One thing we always did was enforce, enforce, enforce,” Profit said. “I hate enforcement. If we had our way, we wouldn’t issue one ticket and that’s a fact.
“Our goal this year has only been to enforce the safety-related items.”
Another resident claimed she was told by an enforcement officer there was a ticket quota they had to meet.
Profit adamantly disputed that accusation.
“There is zero truth from that,” he said. “This is from the board chair: If I ever hear of a quota on the citizens they will be personally dismissed.”
Ganster said he looks at tickets that are disputed and incident reports if an officer is accused of wrongdoing. If the officer has done wrong, they are disciplined, he said.
“We had officers that have abused their power,” Matz said. “We have fired seven of them in the past two years.”
At the meeting, Matz explained the authority’s citywide parking relief program that is aimed at creating more parking in the city.
The most aggressive and noticeable part of the plan is happening now.
The authority has been purchasing vacant lots to turn into parking lots.
Matz also announced Monday that the authority would help create parking behind people’s homes.
“The parking authority will pay for the engineering fees and is working with the city to make this happen and we are going to help pay for the construction costs,” Matz said.
Profit said the authority is the only authority during such things in the nation.
“We will be the first parking authority in the country to create more citizen spaces, and we are doing it now,” he said. “It’s not a fast process. It’s time consuming and expensive. But we’re willing to do it because you’re in the situation of a parking crisis and we’re aware of it.”
Matz added that the authority is reducing the payment plan so that even if you receive one ticket a person can be put on a payment plan.
Matz announced Monday night that because of the response, the authority will host a quarterly meeting for people to come and express their concerns and work towards solutions.
Source : https://www.readingeagle.com/2021/10/22/reading-parking-authority-issues/1204