Use of parking lot is a hot topic for Tisbury firefighters

The rear of the Tisbury firehouse provides much sought after parking spaces. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Tisbury firefighters expressed growing unhappiness Tuesday to selectmen about the increasing number of town employees and others in the know who take advantage of the limited number of parking spaces behind their firehouse near Five Corners.

Seasonal police and traffic officers, EMTs, as well as drivers familiar with the lot, now use the firehouse parking area. Fire Chief John Schilling told selectmen the increased staffing levels in the police and emergency management services department over the summer months had compounded the problem, a source of growing frustration among firefighters.

Chief Schilling told the selectmen that not only are more seasonal employees using the lot, but some are using it when they’re not on duty. The problem is made worse by members of the public who sometimes park there as well. Chief Schilling said some people park and leave their vehicles in the lot for an entire weekend.

Mr. Schilling asked department heads, including police Chief Dan Hanavan, Department of Public Works director Fred LaPiana and EMS director Jeff Pratt to ask their off-duty personnel not to park at the fire station. He also asked the selectmen to help him enforce the issue and to provide some regular, routine maintenance to cut back overgrowth and keep the parking area as open as possible.

The parking issue arose earlier this spring at a selectmen’s meeting on May 31. The board of selectmen asked Chief Hanavan to restrict parking for his department’s personnel to the 12 spaces allotted to them in front of the station house, off the Union Street parking lot.

Selectman Jeff Kristal said the police department’s combination of personal and official vehicles was spilling over into the limited number of parking spaces available in the lot adjacent to the busy Stop and Shop supermarket. He suggested that the police department overflow should be shifted to the parking area behind the firehouse on Beach Road.

Mr. Schilling, who was present at the meeting, agreed that a limited number of parking spaces are available for first responders. He also pointed out that there is no way to enforce limitations on the use of the lot by the general public, and as a result, abuses occur.

Restarting the subject of parking Tuesday night, town administrator John Bugbee said it is time to draw up a formal policy governing the fire station parking lot. Chief Schilling again said enforcement would be difficult.

The selectmen asked Mr. Bugbee to develop a plan that would provide EMS and police department personnel parking options around town. For example, the Park and Ride lot off High Point Lane and the Tisbury School parking lot on West Spring Street.

Unlike their counterparts who work out of the police station in the heart of a busy parking lot, and the general public, town hall employees face no parking squeeze and no parking tickets.

Town hall employees may park along Spring Street and nearby streets in direct proximity to town hall by placing a permit on their dashboard.

In a phone conversation with The Times yesterday, town accountant Suzanne Kennedy said she has issued 13 parking permits, one for every town hall employee.

Tisbury has a set of employee parking regulations. Although the permits do not have any limitation on parking hours, Ms. Kennedy said, “The assumption is the permit will be used during work hours.”

Asked if town hall employees have been requested to park at the Tisbury School or Park and Ride lots in the summer months to free up spaces closer to downtown, Ms. Kennedy said she did not know if that had ever been discussed.

Each summer, and increasingly in the off-season, competition is fierce for the limited number of parking spaces on Main Street in downtown Vineyard Haven. The issue of store employees who take up parking spaces on Main Street and jockey their cars around from space to space to avoid tickets has been an ongoing point of contention for the selectmen with the Tisbury Business Association (TBA).

TBA leaders told the selectmen at the start of the summer that they would encourage their employees to use the town’s Park and Ride lot. The selectmen, in turn, agreed to the TBA’s request that they extend parking hours for the majority of spaces on Main Street from one to two hours, to allow people more time to shop or eat in a restaurant.

The new two-hour signs recently went up along Main Street.

The TBA also urged the selectmen to consider turning the fire department’s Beach Road property into a parking lot, after the new emergency services facility is built. The selectmen suggested the group talk to the planning board about that idea.