NEW PARIS — Tempers flared at a Monday, July 11, village council meeting that found council members embroiled in a shouting match with mayor Rick Van Winkle and ended with citizens storming out amid legal threats before an ordinance was passed prohibiting parking on the east side of Washington Street at the Northwest Fire and Ambulance District building.
The topic became heated following a request from the fire department that the station be allotted 20 feet on either side of its driveway for safety. The request, council members argued, would remove space for two vehicles, leaving room for only one to park on either side, and leaving some residents unable to park. Prior to the meeting, Van Winkle had erected a sign at the location forbidding commercial vehicle parking, without consulting village council nor the street department. At the meeting, he apologized to council for his action, but stated that he was not sorry for the choice.
Suggestions for solutions or compromises varied: Van Winkle, who had since removed the sign, believed it should be reinstated, and felt that for safety reasons, parking should be concentrated on the opposite side of the street.
Village residents Roger and Jennifer Smith began a heated exchange with Van Winkle from the audience, frequently interrupting council discussion with shouts, laughter, and scoffing, and being threatened with ejection if outbursts continued. Smith expressed anger at his company’s commercial vans being displaced, while street department representative Ralph Dungan took issue with Smith leaving multiple vans parked in the same location for days at a time, preventing others from utilizing public parking spaces. Van Winkle and council members agreed the location is a safety issue, with little to no visibility from the driveway when the commercial vans are parked there.
Smith stated his belief eliminating commercial parking in that space was a personal attack and he didn’t want anyone “making a fool of him.”
With council members unable to agree on a clear decision, Van Winkle made an executive decision to replace the “No Commercial Parking” sign, to the displeasure of council members. Jennifer Smith announced she would be contacting a lawyer and the ethics board before she and Roger exited.
Later in the meeting, Van Winkle returned to the issue, raising a vote on providing the fire department with the initially requested 20 feet of clearance on either side of the station driveway. The motion passed with one dissenting vote. Mayor Van Winkle rescinded his previous statement regarding replacing the “No Commercial Parking” sign, stating instead, the curbs will be painted and one parking space would remain on either side of the driveway.