For some city residents, parking-ban tickets more painful than tax bills

New London - Overnight Wednesday, with forecasters predicting a couple inches of snow followed by a few more inches later in the day, the mayor's office initiated a citywide parking ban.

Police issued 133 parking tickets that night. But by Thursday morning, the streets were dry. And those with tickets were angry.

"A $25 parking ticket brings out more ire than a tax bill," said Tax Collector Maureen Farrell, who had an irate resident waiting for her when she opened her office Thursday morning.

She said the man paid his ticket, complaining the whole time that he didn't understand why there was a ban when it didn't snow. Then just as he was about to leave, a woman walked in to appeal her ticket. So he asked for a refund and Farrell gave it to him. But after about 30 minutes more of complaining, he decided he did not want to return for traffic court and paid the ticket again.

"I heard stories all day,'' Farrell said.

During a weather-related parking ban, there is no on-street parking downtown, and vehicles can only be parked on the even-numbered side of other streets in the city. The municipal garage offers free parking to residents during the ban.

Farrell said one woman said she couldn't park in a lot she owns because there was "too much white stuff." Another said she thought the ban only went into effect when there's 2 inches of snow on the ground. A man came in to the office to say he got home at 1 a.m. Thursday and didn't know there was a parking ban.

"I thought, really, they've been talking about this storm for three days,'' she said.

During the last storm, which virtually shut down the city for several days, a young man complained he couldn't park on the even side of the street because there was too much snow there.

"I had to tell him, that's why we have shovels,'' Farrell said.

Zak Leavy, executive assistant to Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio, said Friday that the forecast Wednesday night was for snow, so the office issued the ban. He, too, received complaints from a lot of angry people who wanted to know why they were ticketed when it didn't snow.

People don't like it, but "we have to get the roads cleared,'' he said, adding that the office relies on weather predictions and has to issue the ban early enough so people have time to move their cars. Many streets in the city are narrow and there is no room for a plow to get through without the ban, he said.

Thursday and Friday, Farrell and her workers received a lot of complaints as people paid their tickets. They got a lot of angry phone calls, too. But only nine appeals were filed. Those who appeal will return to City Hall to appear in traffic court.

For those who came into the office on Friday to pay the ticket, Farrell said she warned them that they could get a ticket while paying their ticket.

"I had to tell them, there's a parking ban right now. If you parked outside our office, you could get a parking ticket,'' she said.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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