The Reading Parking Authority is rolling out a plan to assist the city with snow cleanup.
Nathan Matz, RPA executive director, introduced the initiative to City Council during Monday’s committee of the whole meeting.
The plan is part of an ongoing partnership between the authority and the city’s Public Works Department and was developed with the help of a snow management consultant.
It focuses on three main areas of concern during snow events: offering free parking in select city garages; clearing sidewalks, curbs, ramps and crosswalks in the commercial core; and removing snow from commercial-district parking zones.
Offering free parking in select authority garages to city residents during inclement weather has a twofold benefit, Matz said.
“Anyone who lives in the city can park in a garage and avoid having to clean snow off their vehicle or shovel out a parking space,” he said. “More importantly, moving cars from the street allows public works to plow more efficiently and effectively.”
Helping to clear snow from sidewalks and other areas of pedestrian activity, and from commercial parking zones will make those areas safer for downtown residents, business owners and customers during snow events, he said.
“This has a huge positive economic impact on the city by decreasing the time business owners are negatively impacted by snow events.” Matz said.
The authority invested more than $200,000 in the undertaking, he said, noting expenses include consultant fees, snow-removal equipment purchases and staff training.
The initiative had a test run after the snowstorm this month, Matz said, praising the team for its efficiency, while noting the cleanup process is still evolving.
“We recognize there is room for improvement,” he said, “and are noting adjustments that will make our response to the next snow event even stronger.”
The plan does not replace the city’s procedure for declaring and responding to snow emergencies, Matz said, but will apply even in the case of lesser snowfalls.
When a storm is forecast, the authority will take the lead in posting no-parking signs at affected parking spaces. The signs will denote the times and dates during which cars must be kept off the streets.
Matz also introduced amendments to the city’s snow and ice removal ordinance. The proposed changes will codify the role of the authority and officially provide for free parking in select city garages during snow and ice events.
While offering free garage parking has been the practice during past snowstorms, Matz said, it will be formalized by an amended ordinance.
The snow removal plan and proposed amendments to the ordinance will not relieve property owners of their legal obligation to clear sidewalks.
Jeffrey S. Waltman Sr., council president, said there is still time for the city solicitor to review the proposed amendments and for council members and the public to comment before any action is taken.
In the event of an impending storm, residents should check the authority’s website or Facebook page for information on which garages will be open for free parking.
Source: Berkshire mont