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Public Square seen from the third floor of the Paddock Arcade in downtown Watertown. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — Two downtown business owners showed up at Monday night’s City Council meeting to complain about an over-aggressive parking enforcement officer who’s chasing customers away.

Seth Hill, owner of the Tarot Cafe, and Kristina Pafford, who owns the Bare Knuckle Tattoo shop, both located in the Franklin Building, said the strict parking problems started happening soon after a new parking enforcement officer began patrolling downtown.

“I think he gets his jollies giving out tickets,” Mr. Hill said.

Several other business owners in and around Public Square have complained about the new law enforcement officer, claiming that patrons have stopped shopping downtown because of the strict parking enforcement.

Mr. Hill identified the part-time PEO as retired city Police Officer Glenn Brady, who was added to the police department after funding was appropriated in City Manager Rick Finn’s proposed budget last spring.

He’s been on the job a little more than a month, joining another part-time parking inspector, who also works downtown.

Mr. Brady was unavailable for comment Monday night.

The two business owners say the new officer is so strict that he gives out tickets if a vehicle is just slightly over a parking line or is parked too far away from the curb.

They also said that the officer gives out “false tickets,” saying that he issues tickets before two-hour parking limits are over.

“He’s extremely rude,” Mr. Hill said. “He came in and started yelling at my patrons that they have to get out.”

The stricter parking is occurring shortly after the city established 11 new short-term parking spaces around Public Square with 30-minute limits.

The short-term parking spaces in four distinct locations are designed to encourage people to use high-value parking spaces, so others can use them.

Six Public Square businesses requested the changes. The city also presented the proposal to the Downtown Business Association.

But Mr. Hill said that DBA officials also have expressed concerns about the number of parking tickets getting issued recently.

Mayor Joseph M. Butler Jr. told the business owners that the city worked with other downtown merchants to get the 30-minute spots put into place.

Council members said business owners should not be parking all day in front of their shops, that the short-term spaces were established to bring more people downtown.

Councilman Cody J. Horbacz remembered the days when there was an abundance of downtown parking.

Council members recommend business owners and their employees park in one of the series of city public parking lots that dot downtown.

But they learned on Monday night that the State Street parking lot has a maximum of two-hour parking, something they will look into to see if they can increase it to all-day parking so merchants don’t have to move their vehicles four times during shifts.

After the meeting, City Manager Rick Finn said he planned to talk with Police Chief Charles P. “Chip” Donoghue about the complaints.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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(3) comments

317Washington

The parking enforcement seems reasonable. It's a good source of revenue for the city, and I don't see logically how it would impede people from coming downtown, it's free parking for up to two hours. That's plenty of time to eat, shop, browse, etc. For people who work in the area it is annoying to not be able to park on the street, but there are plenty of lots within one or two blocks. There is ample parking in this town, let's get people downtown out on the streets walking around and engaging with the community.

rdsouth

There's that traffic island thing there. Get rid of the fountain and stuff and you can put in some more parking.

Holmes -- the real one

The city is shooting itself in the foot when it comes to improving the square.



There are too many officers who view their position as an opportunity to strong arm and bully others. That betrays their underlying cowardice and poor self control. It would be better to eliminate this sort of person from the police force rather than let this kind of thing continue. If you don't, ultimately the city will suffer. Take a longer view, "Chip."

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