Unauthorized parking fees raise concerns

A question raised at the recent Dunkirk Common Council meeting led to a discussion between two elected officials and the powers of the mayor.

Councilwoman Stacy Szukala used her time to ask Mayor Anthony J. Dolce about a report on a fishing tournament in the OBSERVER that the city was charging $25 per night to park in the city-owned area between the Clarion Hotel and Tim Hortons. Registration and prepayment in the city clerk’s office was part of the process to reserve a space.

“I’m not sure if I missed something, but that wasn’t something that was approved by council, to collect the fees. … As far as I’m concerned this was never approved, this should not have happened whether it was $10, a dollar, fifty cents,” Szukala stated.

“We all sat here and discussed parking for Fourth of July, we couldn’t get it together. We were told to wait another year because of the timeframe to let people know.

“We had fishermen coming in that were surprised that was in the paper, $25 for parking,” she said.

City Clerk Nicole Joiner replied that it was a basic application for the 10 available spots.

“We wanted their basic information; the model of their vehicle, the make, their address. … On the application it said the fees. It was $20 for one night, $40 for two and $50 for three,” Joiner added.

Szukala wanted to know how much the city received during the two tournaments fees were collected.

“I don’t have an exact total. I know that we had five permits handed out for the conservation and seven for the AMARA-CAN, averaging two nights. It was mostly a two-night thing that they put down on their application, so around $40 per person,” Joiner stated. “Seven applications for the one, five for the next. I don’t have an exact total but that’s how many applications were given.”

Szukala asked if anybody knew what budget line the proceeds would go into.

“Obviously some thought went into this if we were giving out color-coded things for the windows. I’m really upset that council was not made part of this,” she continued. “Anything with fees involved, I think we’re all on the same page, it’s supposed to go through council.”

Mayor Anthony J. Dolce said he would “take some responsibility for that.”

“I mean the point being we had this come up when we had those trailers parking behind Bart’s Cove with the tournaments last year. Earlier I spoke to the director who said Bart’s Cove does not allow the parking there,” Dolce continued. “They were quite upset when I said then we’ll impose a fee to allow you a permit to park here a couple nights. The fishing’s great for our area, the one tournament has been here 20-plus years. Another tournament has been here … off and on for 10 years.

“So this was our compromise for letting them park here by us getting some revenue out of it. If you don’t like the fees you’re welcome to change them if you don’t want the parking at all.”

Szukala asked if the City Code doesn’t allow parking, “what would paying a fee do to change the code?”

“The fee gave them the right to park there. It gave them the permission to park there for those two or three nights,” Dolce replied, adding it seemed to work out all right. “We told the tournament directors early enough where they had an opportunity to let their fishermen know that this was coming. Again, it’s something I wanted to get done to make sure we get something done.

“Baseline, where do we take it from here? It doesn’t matter to me.”

Szukala said she appreciated the revenue increase and the work involved.

“But when I got a phone call that asked me; ‘I have been here every year and now I had to pay. I didn’t know, I didn’t read the paper and yada yada,”‘ she stated. “I felt like an idiot because as a councilperson I thought I should have known that and I didn’t. It just put me on the spot.”

Dolce said he would “apologize to a degree for that.”

“But the tournament director should be the ones making their tournament participants aware that this is coming. We were under the impression that they were doing that,” he added.

Comments on this story may be sent to gsnyder@observertoday.com