Spradlin: Mayor vows to clean up snow ordinance

I’m new to living in the city of Frostburg. I attended my first public meeting on Monday night to bring up a gripe — and was thankful the mayor and council listened.

Actually, my experience began a few days earlier, as I submitted two requests for information regarding the city’s snow ordinance, budget and meeting minutes when the original snow ordinance was approved in 1983, as well as the minutes from when it was last updated in 1997. My hope was to learn the intent of city’s leaders when the snow ordinance was passed. That was part one. After learning what I did, part two was convincing the current powers-that-be that the ordinance needs to be revised.

Kevin Spradlin | Potomac Valley Herald This image shows the section of Mill Street that indicates parking is now allowed between 8 a.m. and noon from Nov. 1 to April 1. However, the city's snow ordinance reflects different hours.

Kevin Spradlin | Potomac Valley Herald
This image shows the section of Mill Street that indicates parking is now allowed between 8 a.m. and noon from Nov. 1 to April 1. However, the city’s snow ordinance reflects different hours.

Mission accomplished. After a short discussion, Commissioner Donny Carter agreed that writing a $30 citation for a violation of the city’s snow ordinance — at 10:10 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 8, when it was 50 degrees, sunny, dry and clear — didn’t pass the “common sense” test.

I was rather nervous as I sat before the mayor and city commissioners, and immediately beside Police Chief Royce Douty. I wanted to make sure each of them knew I wasn’t questioning the police officer’s enforcement of the law — the sign on Mill Street clearly said no parking on the street between 8 a.m. to noon from Nov. 1 to April 1. But every version of the ordinance I read indicated the hours were intended to be 2 a.m. to 6 a.m.

Presuming a bit of nerves on my part, I typed up two full pages to read to the city’s elected and appointed officials. I largely stayed with the words as written.

Douty went back to the original intent of the ordinance. When it was approved more than 30 years ago, the area was predominantly inhabited by Frostburg State University students. I indicated the neighborhood had changed over the years, and many homes on the street were either owner- or renter-occupied.

I suggested that in the small town from where I recently relocated in North Carolina, a police officer would have been more likely to knock on my door and reminded me of the ordinance and asked me to move my car — sans citation. Douty said there simply wasn’t manpower to do so here. In addition, he and others acknowledged that it can often be difficult to track down vehicle owners because car owners often fail to update their addresses with state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Douty was correct on both counts, of course, and he was also right when he said I’d appreciate the street being cleared when the snow falls.

The bottom line, though, is that city leaders agreed to (a) take my ticket away, on this occurrence, and (b) take another look at the city’s snow ordinance.

I mentioned to those present I don’t often raise concerns without a potential solution, but that’s exactly what I was doing here. I’m not smart enough, I said, to know how the ordinance should be worded — but that something was clearly wrong.

“We’ll clean it up,” promised Mayor Robert Flanigan.

And Mr. Mayor and Council, thank you for listening.

This is an opinion piece by Kevin Spradlin, managing editor for the Potomac Valley Herald. His experiences and opinions are his own and not necessarily representative of all employees and contributors. 

Filed in: Featured News, Latest Headlines, Opinion, Public safety

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