A treat for some, a trick to others, parking regs resume Halloween night

Posted October 30, 2017

River Falls business owner Craig Rogaczewski is enjoying the additional parking options that became available to his customers and staff back in May, after finding it necessary to relocate his company store from Walnut Street to Pine Street due to a lack of places for vehicles to park.

In annual fashion for River Falls, the ongoing struggle for parking becomes slightly more intense as the city enforces its winter parking restriction that goes into effect immediately after Halloween festivities come to a close in the early morning hours of Nov. 1.

The winter parking restrictions follow an odd/even schedule, requiring all vehicles to be parked on the side of the street that corresponds with the current date.

“It’s based on what it is after midnight, so the morning of, basically,” said Mike Stifter, operations director for the city of River Falls. “That’s what dictates whether it’s odd or even.”

The whole purpose of the odd/even parking restriction, which lasts until March 31, is to keep one side of the street entirely free of vehicles so the city’s public works department can most effectively clear the streets of snow on days and nights when a given snowfall calls for removal.

“Last year we had 17 snow events,” Stifter said, “and that meant someone came in to deal with snow. It might have been one operator truck salting a bridge or an intersection, but 17 times where it was a snow event that we responded to.”

A lack of snow events around the time the restriction goes into effect can be a factor that makes it easy for citizens to forget the policy and receive a ticket as a reminder, which is the reason the city intends to “rely on some warning tickets early in the season to get people educated, reacquainted, reoriented,” Stifter said.

However, regardless of snow on the ground or in the forecast, the city will issue tickets for vehicles in violation of the policy during the dates that the restriction ranges from. Last winter alone, the River Falls Police Department issued approximately 2,300 citations for alternate parking, according to Ailene Splittgerber, the police services specialist supervisor.

Citations for alternate parking are $20 per ticket, according to Splittgerber, which is a small price compared to the other potential consequence that the city occasionally finds necessary to impose.

“It’s very expensive to have your vehicle towed,” Splittgerber said, “and we turn around then and we pay the tow company. If you don’t pick-up your car, then we have to eat all of that, and then we try to sell the vehicle at auction.”

College students in River Falls are aware of the potential consequences for failing to adhere to parking restrictions, and in some cases, students find ways to avoid paying the fees for the parking options available to them on campus, according to Rogaczewski, who moved his business explicitly due to problems with parking.

“The city needs to work with the college and figure out how to come up with more parking for the college students and not (rake over) these college students with parking on the campus,” Rogaczewski said. “That’s why Walnut Street was filled up with college students – free parking all day long, no limits, so they filled the street up with parking. I witnessed it every single day, and the city would argue with me that that doesn’t happen. So the city doesn’t really know what’s going on in their own city, obviously.”