Bremerton proposal aims to limit on-street disabled parking

Michael Kiser is tired of witnessing the challenges disabled drivers face, especially in a city with a reputation for aggressively ticketing parked cars.

That’s why the service officer at the Bremerton chapter of Disabled American Veterans is against a proposal to limit on-street disabled parking spaces in Bremerton to four-hour spots. The proposal was brought to the City Council’s Public Safety and Parks Committee by Council President Nick Wofford May 5. The idea has been discussed for months now, but could come to the full council for a hearing at a study session as soon as May 26, Wofford said.

“I think the idea stinks,” Kiser said, adding that people who use wheelchairs and crutches take more time to get around and should have the right to park as long as they need to.

Kiser chooses not to use his disabled parking permit, but said the majority of people he works with and represents do need that parking.

Joel Courreges, commander and service officer at Disabled American Veterans, said he supports the measure, but only because it is limited to street parking that mainly affects the downtown area.

As someone who has prosthetic legs and uses crutches and canes to get around, he is concerned about Puget Sound Naval Shipyard workers and ferry riders who may take up disabled spots all day, which is something Wofford’s proposal may fix.

“This is not a convenience to us, this is a necessity,” Courreges said. “The people that need it are the people that come into town once every so often to take care of business. The people that need those parking spots don’t work for a living because they can’t.”

Wofford said the proposal is intended to address Courreges’ concerns. The city has fielded complaints for years about ferry commuters and shipyard workers reportedly occupying disabled spots all day.

“By limiting it to four hours, we’re going to try to eliminate that,” Wofford said, noting that state law allows local jurisdictions to impose minimum four-hour limits for disabled on-street parking. “We’re not picking on the handicapped.”

Thad Johnson, who represents the shipyard on a city parking committee, said Naval Base Kitsap provides free handicapped parking to personnel with disabled permits and encourages the use of door-to-door shuttle service for workers. The proposal would not impact workers’ ability to access disabled parking, he said.

Councilman Roy Runyon said he is open to the idea because of the issues on Gregory Way, Second Street and Pacific Avenue, but is not sure whether it would work. He is worried that the restriction would create a downtown parking shuffle every four hours.

Runyon is joined by Councilman Will Maupin in saying that a more comprehensive parking solution is needed. A parking committee made up of members representing the city, local businesses and the shipyard, will receive the results of a city parking survey on June 1 and will work to develop a larger parking plan that month.

“My preference would be to hold onto that issue and include it in whatever we come up with as a solution to downtown parking issues,” Maupin said.

Mayor Patty Lent said she supports the proposal, adding that it could be tested for six months to a year to see if it achieves the intended effect.

“I think it’s a good idea,” she said. “I applaud all of council for moving in that direction.”

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