Parking change allows grace to intoxicated drivers
By Barb Pert Templeton
A traffic order in Marine City that goes back more than 40 years and prohibited parking on S. Water Street between 3 and 6 a.m. has been rescinded by a majority of the city commission. A second traffic control order that prohibited U-turns downtown on the same street has also been abolished.
In a letter to the city commission Police Chief James Heaslip said Traffic Engineering Order P-18-004 was put in place in 2018 at the request of a previous city manager for safety issues with U-turns being made on South Water Street between Broadway and Bridge streets. Heaslip wrote that he had been observing the location while both on and off duty over the last few months and said despite signs being posted prohibiting it, drivers continue to make the U-turns there.
“We are enforcing it and most of the people we are enforcing it on are from out-of-town and I don’t feel that’s a way to welcome out of towners, by stopping them and telling them what they are doing wrong,” Heaslip said. “So, I think it’s time we put this one to bed.”
Since the traffic order was put in place the city’s police department “has taken zero accident” reports related to U-turns so the chief asked for permission to rescind the order and remove the signs prohibiting it.
Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Hendrick said she’s been around people doing the U-turns and also that they are doing the one way the wrong way.
“It’s getting really scary, I don’t even like to go through downtown at certain times, they’re crazy,” Hendrick said. “Some of the ways they drive down there and people making U-turns right in front of you. I get what you’re saying but I think it’s going to get worse on you.”
“I don’t know if it’s going to get any worse; even with the signs up and no U-turns posted its still occurring,” Heaslip said. “We just haven’t policed any accidents, we’ve had no pedestrians hit and we’ve had no crashes, we’ve had none of that and the stats are why I’m here asking for this.”
Hendrick said how about if they try it and review it again if incidents flare up and Heaslip said he thought doing that in a year would be fine.
“I’d just like to say that I had a job where I traveled all the time and every little town has no U-t for a big reason, because it’s dangerous,” Commissioner Rita Roehrig said. “For people to say well I didn’t know, there are signs and they should know most downtowns do not allow U-turns anywhere that I’ve been.”
The commission then voted in favor of rescinding the traffic control order with Roehrig casting the only no vote on the plan.
Parking order rescinded too
The second instance of a change was described in a letter to the commission from the chief where he noted that the order to prohibit parking on S. Water Street from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. dates to 1977 and he wanted to rescind it now.
“As a department we have been writing citations for this violation just to learn that most of the people parking on S. Water Street during this time frame (are doing so) to avoid driving while intoxicated,” Heaslip wrote. “Once I learn that the responsible party left it parked for intoxication, I void the ticket.”
When addressing the commission Heaslip said he tried to dig out the history related to putting the order in place and wasn’t very successful. Hendrick said she could shed some light on why the parking was prohibited in the past.
She said some of it had to do with snow plowing in the winter and being able to clear those areas out for traffic and she said another issue was related to residents from the nearby apartments parking in the street.
“My officers are writing these tickets at 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning and when the people come in to pay their tickets the first thing out of their mouths is we left our cars there because they were too intoxicated to drive home because they’d been at the bar,” Heaslip said. “How can we penalize those people for doing the right thing?”
“I tell you ninety percent of the tickets that people come in to pay have that same reason,” Heaslip added.
Commissioner Michael Hilferink said he thought rescinding the order was awesome.
“Huge kudos to you chief for looking into this and rescinding this, I think yeah, helping people out that are just trying to do the right thing and enjoy our up town and spending money there,” he said. “It would be doing a disservice to those people and the businesses if those cars were attacked.”
The chief said he would bring the issues back to the commission if problems arose from rescinding the order. Officials then approved a motion to rescind the parking order. Roehrig voted against the motion.