The good news is that Silverton vehicle owners may not have to worry about getting ticketed for violating the town’s snow-route policy this winter.
The bad news is that their vehicles may just be towed away instead.
Town Administrator Jason Wells asked the Town Council to consider a plan to drop the $100 fine for snow route violations.
“People would just get towed and that’s it,” Wells said.
He pointed to problems that arose last winter with the ticketing process.
Several citations ended up being dismissed in Town Court when the winter storm forecasts turned out to be wrong and the town crew didn’t actually have to plow.
Wells said that just having vehicles towed without a citation “takes municipal court out of the whole thing” and also takes pressure off the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, which is charged with issuing the parking tickets.
But Wells acknowledged the plan might not be too popular with some.
“It’s not going to be received all that well by the people whose car is not there any more,” Wells said.
The Town Council instituted the town-wide snow route policy last winter in an effort to make snow plowing more efficient and hopefully reduce costs.
Under the policy, when the town issues a “red alert” that snow plowing will occur the next morning, vehicle owners must park on either the odd- or even-numbered side of the street, depending on the calendar date of the morning in question.
Otherwise they get ticketed and risk having their vehicles towed.
Wells said a new town ordinance would be needed to go to a “tow-as-it-snows” regime.
He asked for Town Council guidance on the matter.
“Crested Butte does it,” said Trustee Jim Lindaman. “They don’t ticket, they just tow.”
Lindaman suggested the idea has merit.
It may reduce sheriff’s office costs, would end the problem of red alerts being issued for storms that don’t materialize and would bypass the town court. And he said the towing could be prioritized based on the order in which streets are plowed, starting with Greene Street.
Trustee Pat Swonger said the “devil is in the details” and he warned about possible unintended consequences.
He suggested Wells check with other mountain communities to see how they handle snow-plowing matters.
And he said “the lodging industry takes the brunt of this” with guests often unaware they risk being towed for parking in the street.
Trustee Karla Safranski questioned whether the town has really saved money since instituting the strict snow-route policy. And she said the town has to do a better job of communicating with residents on the issue.
Mayor Terry Kerwin suggested the town get a copy of Crested Butte’s policy, and he asked Wells to draft a recommendation.
“Give it a shot and see what you come up with,” Kerwin said.
Trustee John Schertz offered another idea. He said vehicles could simply be towed to the correct side of the street instead of being impounded.
“I’m just trying to be nice,” Schertz said.