Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Newport traffic crackdown on hold

Plan would have added police personnel and parking meters

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

NEWPORT - City officials hit the brakes Monday night on an aggressive traffic enforcement program that would include parking meters in the business district.

Newport City Commission decided it needed more study before spending $546,000 to create a traffic division within the police department and erect nearly 400 parking meters north of Sixth Street between Washington Street and Central Avenue. That area includes the major commercial district of Monmouth Street.

The city administration, including Police Chief Tom Fromme, had worked with the Newport Business Association to come up with the plan for parking meters and stricter enforcement by traffic division officers. The plan was designed to free up parking for businesses and residents downtown and improve access throughout the city.

"It's a quality of life issue," said City Manager Phil Ciafardini.

But after nearly two hours of debate at Monday night's city commission meeting, officials decided to gather more information. Commissioners disagreed on how to proceed and residents raised concerns.

Officials said the problems include employees in the new entertainment district - namely Newport on the Levee and the Hofbrauhaus restaurant - parking on residential streets.

Commuters are also parking in Newport's business district and then taking a bus to work in downtown Cincinnati.

Fromme said meters and personnel are needed because his department lacks the manpower to consistently enforce existing traffic laws.

Commissioner Jan Knepshield introduced a motion that would have allowed Fromme to immediately hire four additional officers. But it was voted down, 3-2.

Mayor Tom Guidugli said the city needs to keep moving forward with the plan but that a meeting between Newport officials, employers and transportation agencies such as TANK is needed to talk about the city's parking situation.

"Let's keep it moving, but let's get some more information," Guidugli said.

Newport resident Jeff Ballard opposed the city's plan, saying instead of spending $500,000 or more on the traffic division, more enforcement of existing laws is needed.

"Tonight was a victory for the taxpayers," Ballard said.

But Newport Business Association President Tom Beiting said he was "grossly" disappointed no action was taken. "We've been studying this for three years," Beiting said. "We don't need any more study, we need some action."

Commissioner Jerry Peluso said he isn't sure residents will support parking meters.

"I don't want to see us go around and plant 375 miniature telephone poles," Peluso said. "We need to proceed cautiously because this is change, this is a big change, and people don't like big changes."


E-mail pcrowley@enquirer.com

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