by Richard Uhlhorn
City Council balked at a suggested motion to hire Phoenix Protective Corporation for weekend access control at both Lakeside and Don Morse Parks through Labor Day weekend.
City Attorney Quentin Batjar stated that without COVID restrictions in place, the City didn’t have a legal standing to implement restrictions to its parks this July Fourth. “There are constitutional issues at play here.” He stated that the First Amendment comes into play. Batjar went on to say the City could limit access to the parks if it had solid ground that the public’s safety was an issue.
City Administrator Wade Ferris said a lot of tickets were written over the weekend, mostly to vehicles that were double parked all the way up to the hospital. “We semi-alleviated the parking issues.”
Ferris said he needed to hear from the Council regarding the park overcrowding. Councilman Peter Jamtgaard stated that he witnessed people parking along Hwy 97A and walking to Lakeside Park. It is not a safe situation,” said Jamtgaard. He noted that Riverwalk Park is being used more often. “If people can’t go to one place, they will find other places.”
John Olson asked where the $18,000 was coming from? Ferris replied that the City would find the money to do it. “We can’t use COVID money.”
Erin McCardle sees the City kicking the can down the road and not solving any of the issues with security. “I have a hard time saying families can’t come in to our parks.” Her other issue is residential parking. “The neighborhoods filling up is also a problem,” she said.
Apparently the bathrooms broke down and the City couldn’t get any porta potties; plus the staff was understaffed. “We are not delivering a level of service,” said McCardle. She asked what the security would be doing for its $18,000.
Ty Witt also commented that parking was a huge issue. He said on Gibson “that people just don’t know where to go.” He suggested ticket writers might be the answer. Parks Director Paul Horne said, “Right now the Sheriff is responsible for ticketing.” Witt replied that the City could hire a meter maid for ticketing. “I think somebody like that could be hired.”
Chris Baker stated that it is just a matter of time before someone is killed or seriously injured on the highway.
Jamtgaard said, “I’m totally in support of expanding parking at Don Morse.” He wants to see a kinder, gentler way to handle the problem of parking and the park issues and is opposed to ticketing visitors.
Servando Robledo said he would like to see the Council take a look at solutions for next year. “It is not positive for families. Maybe we are a little too late this year. I would like to figure out how to handle it next year.”
Tim Hollingsworth said the City has the responsibility to keep the parks open. “I spent a couple of hours at Lakeside and Don Morse and nothing I saw was a life or health issue.”
Witt said neighborhood parking is an issue and he brought up the illegal parking on Farnham by the PUD boat launch. He also worries about Hwy 97A and the potential for an accident there.
Mayor Bob Goedde offered a solution for illegal parking. “Let’s put out a bid for three tow trucks (to operate in Chelan) and give them a impound yard.” He also stated that visitors could be given directions or information of other places to go when the parks are full. He asked the Council to come up with ideas and potential solutions for the August 3 City Workshop.
Servando suggested that the Council come up with a long term solution to parking in Chelan.
Peter mad a motion to contract with the security firm through September and it was approved by a vote of 4-3.