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City council forms ad-hoc parking committee

In a city of 37,000 residents, three members of the city council have banded together to find a way to deal with less than two-dozen chronic “shufflers.”

“The [committee’s] focus should be to disrupt the chronic shufflers,” said councilmember Roy Runyon.

A shuffler is any person that parks in a one, two or three hour parking spot in downtown Bremerton, then when the time limit expires, moves their car around the corner to another spot.

Leaders say they know that the main offenders are comprised of the occasional shipyard worker and downtown business owners and employees.

The committee will meet at 3 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month until a solution is reached and they disband.

Tuesday’s inaugural meeting of the parking committee started with Runyon seeking to get himself appointed parking tsar.

The move came with an objection from new councilmember Leslie Daugs, who also sought the chair. She also pushed to have citizen and business owner involvement rather than pursue Runyon’s idea to have only the three elected look into the parking issue for which they gathered.

Runyon offered to push the three-member panel into a vote on the chair issue then noted it would be a 2-1 outcome.

“I see where we’re going,” Daugs said before stepping aside from the issue.

Supporting Runyon’s desire to be chair, newly minted  council president Jim McDonald said the parking committee was Runyon’s idea and he should lead it.  In the parking world, “Roy has a lot of contacts,” he said.

Runyon has also taken credit for the December 2011 tax increasing scheme to fund public works with increased parking taxes, car tab fees and what former council president Will Maupin described as a backdoor utilities rate increase disguised as tax.

Currently, shuffling cars to maximize time-limited free parking is not illegal as long as the car or truck is moved to another street following the expiration of the time.

Almost every street in downtown Bremerton as a time limit and leaders say it’s to address the unique situation created by 20,000 shipyard workers and thousands of ferry riders who infuse downtown on a daily basis.

A previous attempt to get business owners and their employees to use the city’s parking garage, by discounting the monthly rate to $40, largely failed. McDonald said he was concerned that people didn’t know the plan was available.

“We have an underutilized parking garage,” he said.

Daugs said that she spoke with several owners and employees, who shuffle, who said they wouldn’t use the garage because of safety concerns. It’s dark when they go to work and when they leave, she said.

“The perception is downtown is unsafe for females,” Runyon said. Later, he agreed that safety is perhaps the realm of Bremerton Police.

McDonald said the “apparent” cause of the “shuffle” was about 20 vehicles. He offered an idea that perhaps Bremerton should follow the lead of Walla Walla, which allows only one free parking space per day per vehicle.

“You cannot return that day,” McDonald said. “We suggest [drivers] can’t return for one hour.”

Another concurring group of parkers were those with handicap placards who parked as long as they liked in handicap spots.

“They were taking up all the spots because it was legal,” McDonald said. “Now it’s a four hour limit.”

A word of caution came from Daugs who asked, “Are we saying that we don’t want people to come downtown?”

With the discussion barely begun, the committees’ first meeting ended 30 minutes after it started – plenty of time for anyone citizen in attendance to return to their car before getting a ticket.

 

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