SANDPOINT — The city has once again taken on the role of parking enforcement after ending its contract with Diamond Parking in September.
"One of the strategic priorities established by the City Council and Mayor (Shelby) Rognstad in 2017 is to meaningfully improve the effectiveness of communications between and among city officials, staff and our community," said City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton in an email to the Daily Bee. "Bringing parking enforcement back into the city rather than contracting the service helps us achieve this goal."
Prior to contracting with Diamond Parking on Jan. 1, 2013, the city's municipal enforcement program was under the oversight of the Sandpoint Police Department. The city eliminated its two municipal enforcement officer positions and program on Oct. 1, 2012, and contracted parking enforcement services with Diamond Parking, primarily due to budget constraints, Stapleton said.
To oversee the enforcement, the city has hired on Angela Tennson and Ryan Daniel as the new community resource officers.
"We revamped our traditional municipal enforcement program into a community resource program, and one of the key functions of our community resource officers is to serve as ambassadors to the community and our visitors," Stapleton said. "They will be going beyond traditional parking enforcement and engaging daily with our business owners, residents and visitors to keep apprised of concerns and needs."
In addition, she said, their responsibilities extend to code enforcement, such dog leash laws, nuisance complaints, noxious weeds and more. The officers will be more proactive in these efforts rather than reactive, which is something the city's elected leaders and community members have requested, Stapleton said. The city will be more responsive to citizen concerns and complaints as well.
Having city staff, as opposed to contracted staff performing parking enforcement, allows flexibility depending on the current needs and priorities of the community, which changes with the seasons in Sandpoint, Stapleton said. For example, during this holiday season, the community resource officers have been primarily issuing warning notices as opposed to tickets for parking time violations. This is not only effective for training the new employees, but is also a good community relations approach as the downtown businesses rely on holiday shoppers this time of year, she said.
"We don’t have the volume of visitors that we have during the summer months so parking turnover isn’t quite as critical," Stapleton said.
Because adding additional patrols would have increased the cost of the contract with Diamond Parking, the company did not cover City Beach. SPD officers were responsible for the area. Now, with dedicated city staff on parking enforcement, law enforcement officers can re-dedicate their services to other public safety needs, she said. It has also allowed the city to expand time-limited parking areas, including the Pend d'Oreille Bay trail head parking area.
During the Dec. 20 City Council meeting, council members approved a contract with Complus Data Innovations, a parking enforcement software and service company. There was no purchase cost for the program itself, and costs are determined based on a percentage of tickets issued. This is a "cost effective approach" for taxpayers, Stapleton said. The community resource officers track time by chalk marks on the tires and the contract with the company allows a future option to add license plate scanning software for electronic tracking. Complus will also mail citations and serve as the collection agency for unpaid tickets.
The city still has a substantial amount of tickets outstanding which was discussed when council members approved a scofflaw program in the fall of 2016.
"There wasn’t a good method for identifying registered owners responsible for outstanding tickets and that has impacted our ability to implement the scofflaw program," Stapleton said. "This new service resolves that issue and we will be importing the outstanding tickets into the program after the first of the year and pursuing collection options. That unrecovered revenue will support the costs of the parking enforcement program which again is good for the taxpayers."
Mary Malone can be reached by email at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.