Winter parking blues

When senior Ben Murga woke up on Monday, Jan. 25, he was surprised to see snow covering the sidewalk outside his Station Square apartment, but he was more even more surprised by what he didn’t see. His girlfriend, sophomore Tessa Leone’s car was not where it had been parked on Howard St. the night before.”All the cars along that street had tickets, including mine,” Murga said. “I moved mine quickly so it wouldn’t get towed.”Murga wasn’t alone in his surprise. Many Simpson students got fined or had their vehicles towed over the next two days.By all accounts, it’s been a brutal winter in Indianola and across the state. The snow ordinance issued on Jan. 25 was the fourth of the season, but Indianola Police Chief Steve Bonnett said it was unusual because no one had predicted there would be enough snow to issue an ordinance.”In that instance the snow ordinance was put into effect and the officers went to work, but you know, it’s not our fault,” Bonnett said. “We’re not weather people. The bottom line is, we have to get the streets cleared.”Over the next three days, the IPD wrote 123 parking violations and towed 33 cars related with the ordinance.According to city code, a snow ordinance is issued when two inches of snow has fallen or is predicted to fall, and cars cannot be parked on streets for 48 hours.The issue on Jan. 25 may have taken students by surprise because the snow fell overnight and an ordinance was issued in the morning between 7 and 7:30. A notice went out to Simpson students via e-mail about an hour later.Senior Shane Robinett said that by the time he received the e-mail, his car had already been towed.”I found out that they actually towed it at around 7:50, but we didn’t get an e-mail until after 8,” he said.When Murga and Robinett tried to address their issues with the IPD, they said they didn’t get very far.”I was frustrated,” Robinett said. “It probably cost me $115 to $120, and everyone involved in the process was really rude to me.”Students living near other parts of campus were frustrated as well. Junior Betsy Knudsen says she was unaware that she could not park in the diagonal parking near Irving Elementary during a snow ordinance.She said had she known, she would have gone elsewhere. “Had I known that I couldn’t park there, then of course I wouldn’t have,” Knudsen said. “I think they intentionally kept it hush-hush so they could give us tickets.”Bonnett said he’s heard those accusations before.”Everybody comes in, and everybody has what they feel is a good excuse, and it’s not the police department’s job to decide ‘this person’s excuse is better than this person’s excuse,'” he said. “We just don’t listen to it.”Of 33 cars towed from Jan. 25-27, 28 were parked on or around the Simpson campus. Bonnett said the reason is because Indianola residents learn faster than Simpson students to follow the ordinances.”The city people are getting it – come February, they get it,” Bonnett said. “They know they’re going to get towed. And, for whatever reason, Simpson is slower to learn.According to Bonnett, his office notifies the public of a snow ordinance via local media outlets, fax, e-mail and Twitter. But, he says, students are ultimately responsible for finding out if a snow ordinance has been issued.His advice to students was to avoid the problem altogether by purchasing a parking pass.”This time of year, I would strongly encourage (students) to get their cars off the streets,” Bonnett said. ” Simpson will find you a place to park. At $50, a whole year of parking is, in my opinion, pretty darn cheap.”According to Simpson Security Director Chris Frerichs, there are approximately 1,600 parking spots available to students who live on campus, not including sports at theme houses. Currently, about 930 permits have been sold.Murga tried to organize a group of students to attend an Indianola City Council meeting or talk with a representative, but was told students probably wouldn’t get their tickets revoked.”It’s really frustrating because no one cares,” Murga said. “If the police have made up their minds, there’s nothing we can do.”Bonnett said he’s had students appeal their tickets in the past, but none have been overturned.- Kelsey Knutson contributed to this article.