It’s been two years since the Waterbury village government was dissolved — including its police department.
The town government now has a contract with state police for police coverage, but state troopers don’t write parking tickets.
With no local police, there’s no way to enforce Waterbury’s daytime parking rules, and people are getting irritated. Downtown parking is scarce during peak business hours.
The issue has come up before — in 2018, and again in 2019, and even while Waterbury still had a police force — but nothing’s been done to enforce the parking rules on Waterbury streets.
Some people have just had it.
“Is parking a free-for-all?” Brian Kravitz of Randall Street asked on Front Porch Forum. He said cars along Randall, Elm and Main streets are being parked too close to hydrants and corner curbs, and “someone is going to get hurt.”
“There is no village police anymore,” responded Carl Werth of Mansion Hollow Road. “... Are you suggesting that the town select board members go out and write tickets?”
Timothy Magee of Howard Avenue suggested the town hire the people who enforce parking limits at 10 S. Main St., in what used to be the TD Bank parking lot and is now a pay-to-park lot. Or, if taxpayers don’t want to pay for parking enforcement, organize a volunteer group to write tickets.
The village police used to handle parking enforcement in Waterbury village, said Bill Shepeluk, the municipal manager, but the village police went away in 2018. Waterbury has contracted with state police for police coverage, at a cost of $365,000 a year, but parking isn’t in their job description.
Shepeluk brought the issue to the select board while budgeting for 2018 and 2019, and both times the board refused to budget for parking enforcement.
The state police contract fee was news to Tim Porter of South Main Street, who wrote, “Wow, $182,500 per officer per year?”
Shepeluk said the town’s deal with the state police is a good one; they provide more services at a lower cost than the defunct Waterbury department. He told taxpayers that now’s the time to act if they want change; the select board is discussing Waterbury’s town budget proposal every Monday this month.
Parking was last discussed by the select board May 6. Chris Viens, board chair, suggested the town make the tickets “so painful that people will abide by the parking rules.”
Shepeluk questioned the legality of a $100 parking ticket, and put the mission of a parking enforcer in perspective. It’s to promote safe parking practices and “in a perfect world you would never have to write a ticket.”
But nothing was done, and the two-hour parking signs along Main and Stowe streets are feckless. While a car is sure to be towed if parked overnight on a street during a winter night — snow-removal rules apply — employees, residents and visitors can park wherever there’s a spot, all day, with no repercussion or recourse.
Shepeluk has proposed hiring a part-time civilian parking enforcer for about $13,000 a year. But back when the village police wanted help on parking enforcement, “we advertised for that position ... but nobody applied for the job,” Shepeluk said.
“I’m in support of trying to find someone to do enforcement,” said Mark Frier, select board member and owner of the Reservoir Restaurant and Taproom at 1 S. Main St., but is wary of the cost.
“We could just figure out how to find a town employee to do it a couple times a month at random intervals,” Frier said. “You just need to create enough scare that you might get a ticket.”
But if anything’s to be done, Frier agreed with Shepeluk: “I think the drive needs to come from the community coming out to select board meetings.”