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Learn snow-removal procedures, save hundreds

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | DECEMBER 06, 2011 7:20 AM

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Avoid paying a minimum of $130 in fines by learning about Iowa City's snow-removal procedures.

After the first snow of the season, many veteran Iowa City residents will rush to prepare for the winter weather, but others will be left to learn the hard way — especially when it comes to on-street parking.

Though many efforts have been made by the city to increase awareness of the snow-emergency ordinance, there is more that can be done so that residents can avoid paying hundreds of dollars to recover their vehicles.

Last year, Iowa City and its surrounding areas were hit with one of the most massive snow systems to pass through in decades, canceling University of Iowa classes and highlighting a trend of powerful winter storms that the Midwest has seen recently. As a result, many Iowa City residents inadvertently found themselves with costly parking tickets and towing fees related to snow removal.

In 2009, the city of Iowa City increased the fine for violating the snow-emergency ordinance from $15 to $50. Once that fine is paid to the city, car owners must then find a ride to the lot that their vehicles were towed to (often by Big Ten Towing) and pay another fee. The base towing fee for small vehicles is $80, and there are many other additional charges that can be tagged on (winching, $100 minimum; "standby time," $50 per half hour, etc.). The longer a car is in the tow lot, the more one must pay to recover it. Big Ten Towing charges $15 to $30 per day of storage.

The City Council has made many attempts to raise residents' awareness of snow-emergency procedures over the past few years. The city maintains a webpage dedicated to information related to its snow-emergency ordinance (which the City Council voted to enact in November 2008) and maintains a Twitter account (@ICSnowEmergency) for snow-emergency declarations.

Last year, City Councilor Susan Mims informed The Daily Iowan that she was planning to work with the university to send a mass email to the students. No such email was sent — providing Iowa City and university officials with easy potential for improvement before the first snowfall of this coming winter.

"The city of Iowa City has worked with the University of Iowa since the beginning of the snow-emergency ordinance in December 2008; however, it had its own policy limitations," Carol Sweeting of the city's Public Works Department wrote in an email to the DI Editorial Board on Monday. "The UI has been able to help us more efficiently beginning spring of 2011, because it has been able to use mechanisms such as Facebook and Twitter to assist both students and staff."

No matter the efforts taken, it seems that many students have found themselves out of the loop year after year. With the possibility of a record- and wallet-breaking snowstorm always only weeks away, here's the information students and residents need to know:

City officials will declare a snow-emergency, which lasts a minimum of 48 hours, when it deems necessary. They are required to provide a minimum of four hours' notice before enforcement begins. If the declaration is after 8 p.m., enforcement will begin at 8 a.m. the next morning.

For streets that usually allow parking on both sides, parking will only be permitted on one side during snow emergencies. On even-numbered days, parking will only be allowed on the even side of the street (i.e., addresses with even numbers). Likewise, on odd-numbered days, parking will only be permissible on the odd side of the street. For streets that alternate on odd and even days, the same rules apply, except the Sunday and evening parking exceptions do not apply. On streets with no parking prohibitions, alternate side parking will be put into effect. There will be signs to clarify.

If a car is parked in violation of the snow-ordinance during a snow-emergency for an extended period of time, that car will likely be towed, and hundreds of dollars in fines will result.

In order to avoid unforeseen budget-breakers, Iowa City residents who rely on street parking must keep up with the city's persistent announcements.

Like most college towns, Iowa City has a high rate of resident turnover. Residents knowledgeable about the city's snow-emergency procedures should do their part in informing those unaware — because despite its best efforts, Iowa City's message still misses too many budget-conscious residents.


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