City ponders more ‘teeth’ to control
random, extended parking in public lots

By Louis Hoglund

If you’re parking in a city-owned lot, you could be subject to being towed–if you’re obstructing driving lanes or impeding snow removal. 

Parking issues have come to the forefront, in large part, because of two consecutive heavy snow winters. Snow has piled up on the perimeters of nearly every city parking area. But city crews have a difficult time getting in to remove the small mountains of snow–because of parked cars.  

Businesses are also being affected. Most notably, Strand Hardware, which receives large truckloads of freight on the west side–through the often congested public parking lot across the river from the library.   Matt Strand provided the city a photo, with a pick-up truck parked randomly outside of the striped parking area –blocking an Ace Hardware truck from delivery. 

Parking was discussed at length at the Feb. 11 Pelican Rapids City Council meeting.

Ordinance revisions would identify public parking lots in the same category as public streets. By doing so, the city would have more “teeth” to tow vehicles for snow removal, or if they are parked for a prolonged period. 

City crews struggle with all of the  city parking lots, especially in the immediate downtown area, said Brian Olson, public works superintendent.

Most notable over the past ten years, said Olson, are families with multiple cars.  

“Nowadays, everybody seems to own more than one vehicle,” said Mayor Brent Frazier.

“The cars have multiplied…We can’t clear snow because there are too many cars,” said Olson.  

City officials and police chief Jeff Stadum are reluctant to be overly heavy-handed in towing vehicles.  So, a likely solution will be to place special notices on windshields to the effect that cars must be moved within 24 hours, to accommodate snow removal, or they will be towed. Stadum said the police department would also attempt to reach the owner of the vehicle before towing.  

In most cases, parking and moving cars to allow city crews to move and clear snow should be a matter of “common sense,” said Councilman Curt Markgraf.  “Unfortunately, that sometimes seems to be a rare commodity,” added Markgraf.