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Tick-tock: Grand Forks police chief wants longer street parking

For cars parked on the street, how long is too long? City Council members cast a 6-0 vote in committee to raise the length of time cars can be parked along city streets from 24 to 72 hours--potentially a boon for visitors, students and the local ...

Grand Forks Police Chief Mark Nelson makes a point during a recent meeting with top staff at the Police Department. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
Grand Forks Police Chief Mark Nelson makes a point during a recent meeting with top staff at the Police Department. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

For cars parked on the street, how long is too long?

City Council members cast a 6-0 vote in committee to raise the length of time cars can be parked along city streets from 24 to 72 hours-potentially a boon for visitors, students and the local police department. The matter still requires full City Council approval at March 5 and March 19 meetings.

The change was submitted to city leaders by Grand Forks Police Chief Mark Nelson. The current 24-hour limit on street parking means that, once a parked car is brought to the department's attention, it's given 24 hours to move or be towed, he said. And while the law helps keep streets clear, Nelson said a longer length of time could help free up police resources.

"Right now our wrecker contracts, as you can see, are basically through the roof," Nelson said, providing a report that shows the department has already spent 57 percent of its $15,000 annual budget for such expenses. "It's kind of eating our lunch right now."

Nelson said that cars are towed at the department's expense, a cost the department tries to reclaim when the owner pays to retrieve their car.

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City leaders pressed Nelson for a clearer financial breakdown of how the policy affects his department, wondering if the service might pay for itself. The police chief did not have the data, but said the likelihood an owner will pay such fees is "a big if," and if a car is held too long, it's sold for about scrap value.

Nelson also said police are required to escort vehicles throughout much of the impounding process-a drain on resources. That's not to mention the practical effects of the law.

"If you come up here and you spend a weekend with a relative at the lake, someone calls in on your car, now your car is impounded because it's been (parked) more than 24 hours," Nelson said.

City Council member Crystal Schneider noted that a change would be helpful in her own ward, near UND, which has numerous rental facilities and student housing, where residents are often forced to park their cars on the street.

City Council member Sandi Marshall was absent from Monday's meeting.

Other business

Council leaders cast a 5-1 committee vote, with Schneider dissenting, to back a roughly $6.5 million plan for the reconstruction of DeMers Avenue in 2020. The project, coordinated by the North Dakota Department of Transportation, will rebuild the road from the Sorlie Bridge to Sixth Street, and city leaders' early recommendation means it likely will not include a new bike lane or the "bump-out" designs that would expand pedestrian landings at crosswalks. In separate, 6-0 vote, the council approved a roughly $950,000 NDDOT plan to resurface North Fifth Street from DeMers Avenue to Gateway Drive in 2019

The city is only expected to pay for 10 percent of each project. The full council will vote on a final recommendation is set for March 5.

Related Topics: MARK NELSON
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