Possible parking truce between city, SEMO

Friday, July 20, 2007

Southeast Missouri State University students parking illegally on residential streets near campus won't face $50 city fines when they return to school. At least not for a few months.

That's the outcome of a meeting between city of Cape Girardeau and university officials.

They scheduled the meeting after Cape Girardeau City Councilman John Voss introduced an ordinance July 9 that would raise parking fines on residential streets adjacent to or encircling the campus, in an area bounded by Sprigg Street, New Madrid Street, West End Boulevard and Broadway. The current fines range from $10 to $15 throughout Cape Girardeau. The ordinance Voss introduced would boost the parking fine to $50. If the ticket is not paid within seven days, the fine would increase to $75.

City manager Doug Leslie, Voss and police chief Carl Kinnison met with university president Dr. Ken Dobbins, Department of Public Safety director Doug Richards and university attorney John Grimm on July 13. Leslie said the men agreed to a series of steps that, at least initially, may postpone the higher fines.

They agreed to form a committee of five to seven people, including a resident and student, to evaluate signs, current parking regulations, enforcement and possible permits.

Richards said university police would begin patrolling nearby residential streets "very frequently, depending on the level of violations and other calls we're addressing at the time." He did not give a specific rate of increase in patrols other than to say it would be "more than in previous years."

The proposed ordinance is scheduled for second and third readings at the city council's Monday meeting. The ordinance would take effect 10 days later if approved.

Voss said that while the $50 fine "is probably too high," he has reservations about tabling the new ordinance because the current one "is not effective in managing the parking problems, specifically on Alta Vista."

He lives on that street, in an area where more than 25 percent of the city's parking tickets were issued between August 2006 and May of this year.

"I simply want people to read the signs and obey the ordinance," Voss said. He said the new ordinance did not specifically target students. Anyone else parking illegally on the street would face the same fine.

University police are able to issue tickets on the city streets adjacent to the campus. Cape Girardeau's municipal court handles those citations.

Richards said he agreed the violations are both "a legal parking issue and also a public safety issue."

Students who park illegally on campus face fines ranging from $20 to $50, depending on the violation. Richards estimates the school currently provides between 6,500 and 7,000 parking spaces and said the school plans to add 300 more by mid-August. "We have adequate spaces to cover the parkers on campus," he said. "It may not be exactly where they want, but we have the spaces."

Richards said residents adjacent to campus can call university dispatchers at 651-2215 to report student parking violations but suggested calling Cape Girardeau police first at 335-6621.

pmcnichol@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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