SANDPOINT — The transition to parking enforcement by Diamond Parking has been a steady, if occasionally contentious, process, according to city department heads.
It’s been four months since Diamond Parking took over duties from the police department’s now-defunct municipal enforcement division. The transition hasn’t been seamless, but according to city officials, the public-private partnership has the advantage of on-the-fly adjustments to address concerns.
“I think a lot of people are happy and some aren’t,” city treasurer Shannon Syth said. “Diamond Parking is just here to enforce our ordinances, and that’s what they’re doing.”
One of the rationales for contracting Diamond Parking instead of using city employees to handle parking enforcement beyond cost-saving is the potential to acquire revenue.
Diamond Parking takes a cut of all paid fees every month and passes the rest on to the city, resulting in revenue that can potentially be used for maintenance. Under the municipal system, parking revenue usually only covered a fraction of the officers’ salaries and benefits.
However, Syth said it’s still too early to tell what kind of money this setup could potentially generate. Diamond Parking largely spent January setting up and February interacting with residents and issuing warnings, and ticketing largely began in March and April. Furthermore, Diamond Parking officials only issue the city a report about ticketing activity after a fine has been paid, and so far, Syth has only received one such report.
The exact number of citations typically issued in an average day is unknown, as Diamond Parking representatives failed to return multiple requests for comment.
However, Police Chief Corey Coon speculates ticketing has probably increased since the days of the municipal police officer enforcement. That’s because the officers balanced parking enforcement with other duties and could only check vehicles between two and four times a day. Meanwhile, Diamond Parking employees are able to make runs much more frequently.
Not all downtown businesses and shoppers have been entirely pleased with the change. According to Coon, the department initially received complaints about a lack of clarity regarding rules and boundaries in signs and maps. Coon said those problems have been solved. In addition, new signs and electronic kiosks for parking passes are also on the way.
The most frequent outstanding complaint, Coon added, was parking outside a space’s white lines. Some residents have complained that they’ve been ticketed for very minor line-crossing, while one person incorrectly parking in the morning can force everyone else to do the same, resulting in a whole line of tickets. The police department is working on a system that will address that complaint, Coon said. For instance, the Downtown Sandpoint Business Association is polling businesses to see whether owners prefer a single, solid line or clearly-marked space allotments for parallel parking.
Coon encourages those with complaints to contact the police department and share their grievances. Since Diamond Parking operates at the city’s instruction, the department can take steps to handle problems.
“Some concerns from the downtown businesses we’ve already been able to address,” Coon said.
Parking violations can be costly
Parking violations can be costly, especially once they begin adding up.
Violators are charged $50 for parking in a handicapped spot, $25 for red zone parking, $25 for parking in front of a hydrant and $25 for loading zone parking. Parking over two hours in a limited parking zone brings a warning upon first violation, a $10 fee on the second, $25 on the third and fourth, $50 on the fifth and sixth and $100 on the seventh and above. Additionally, ticketed individuals are charged a $25 late fee after 14 days, and if their vehicle is impounded, they must pay another $55 fee.
Downtown parking is restricted to two hours Monday through Saturday during normal business hours. Parking is free on Sunday. In addition, individuals can purchase monthly and yearly passes for the city’s downtown and Sand Creek parking lots.