John Lebegue, building and safety officer,
told the council that in looking at existing ordinances, the city
has nothing in place to prohibit commercial snowplowing businesses
from pushing snow out of parking lots and into city streets.
This year especially, this has created a problem for the city.
When the plows push the snow into city streets, then it is city
manpower and equipment that has to get the road cleared for traffic.
Lebegue said he had researched ordinances in other communities
and found varying degrees of language. In the community of Streator,
for example, he said the ordinance just says it is unlawful to push
snow into the street. In Bloomington he said the language is a
little more complex, and in the community of Washington, it is quite
In his opinion, Lebegue said the city didn't need to go into
detail on the issue, but he felt there was a need for a prohibitive
During the discussion Russell Wright, assistant street
superintendent, confirmed that it has been a large problem this year
for the street department.
Wright told the council that the worst part is that oftentimes
the city has already plowed a street; then they come back to find
snow in the road from a nearby parking lot. The result is that the
city has to return and plow again, adding time and expense for his
During discussion, Marty Neitzel commented that adding this new
rule would cause somewhat of an uproar from the commercial plowers.
"And the commercial people are going to say: 'What are we paying
taxes for? We pay taxes; you ought to take care of our snow too,'"
The group also talked about how this would affect individuals,
and for the most part it would not apply to residential areas where
a snowblower tosses some snow into the street. At the same time,
Wright told the council there were a few of those that were also an
issue, and that if this happens next winter, the city might need to
address those individual cases.
Michelle Bauer, newly appointed Ward 2 alderwoman, also weighed
in on the discussion, saying that what the city had seen this year
were extreme situations where there have been 4 and 6 inches of snow
at a time. She said under these circumstances, plows should be
starting at the driveway of a business and pushing the snow into the
parking lots. She felt creating this rule was reasonable and
shouldn't prohibit the commercial plows from doing their job.
The discussion came to a close with Melody Anderson saying she
was all in favor of an ordinance that would help the city run its
department more efficiently.
Mayor Keith Snyder then asked if the city attorney should go
forward with preparing the ordinance, and by nods of the head the
council consented. The actual vote on the subject will come when the
ordinance is prepared, possibly as early as next week.
Sue McLaughlin, city administrator, introduced the subject of
imposing an impound fee on towed vehicles, specifically those that
are impounded as a result of a criminal arrest.
McLaughlin said she had been looking at the internal costs of the
police department in having a vehicle towed. For example, in the
case of towing a vehicle as the result of an arrest for driving
under the influence, there is a police officer's time investment of
about two to three hours. In these instances, there is no means of
recovering the cost of time spent by the department.
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She said there are statues that allow for imposing an impound fee
for DUIs, driving without a license and other violations. She
suggested that the city consider establishing a fee.
She also explained that in order to do this, the city would
also have to establish a code hearing process. This would
involve hiring an attorney specifically trained to act as the
The hearing process would be necessary so that vehicle owners
could have an opportunity to state their case as to why their
vehicle should not have been impounded. She added that if a
defendant lost an appeal in the code hearing, the defendant would
then have to pay the court costs in addition to the impound fee.
In researching this, McLaughlin said she had talked to other
communities of similar size who did this, and they said they
averaged one hearing per year.
Mike Geriets, assistant police chief, was on hand for the meeting
and told the council that in 2013 the department had 191 vehicles
towed; in 2012 the number was 171; and in 2011 it was 124.
Asked how this would work, McLaughlin explained one scenario
could be that the vehicle owner would have to pay the impound fee
first. They would then receive a receipt that they could take to the
towing company lot to show the fee was paid. Then they would pay the
tow and storage fee to the towing company and retrieve their
When asked what the proposed fee would be, McLaughlin said $500.
Many of the aldermen reacted to the price, with Marty Neitzel saying
she thought that was awfully high and that people wouldn't pay it.
The topic came up of what to do with cars that were never
claimed. McLaughlin said that most people need their cars, and they
will come up with the money to get them back. She said in her
research she had learned that in other areas, the cities end up with
maybe one or two cars a year out of 200.
In those cases, she said the city had options. They could auction
the cars, sell them outright, or if they were vehicles in good
condition that the city could actually use, the city could keep
Jeff Hoinacki asked who the administrators would be for the
impound fees. Considering the workload the city clerk's office
already has, he wondered if this would add to their duties. Geriets
said the paperwork would be done by a city police officer, and the
fees would be collected by Brenda McCabe, office administrator.
Hoinacki then asked if there would be a need for an additional
officer on the payroll, and Geriets said there would not.
Another question asked was whether the city could use this
ordinance to impound the vehicles of people with delinquent parking
tickets. Blinn Bates, city attorney, said the city could not
according to state statute.
Snyder suggested the council take time to review the draft
ordinance and bring it back to the committee of the whole for
further discussion on Feb. 25.
[By NILA SMITH]