NIAGARA FALLS – There may be a new face on downtown parking enforcement next year.
A new city police officer paid for by a federal grant would be assigned to parking details under a proposal described at a City Council budget hearing Tuesday by Police Superintendent Bryan DalPorto.
The officer would enforce parking laws by issuing tickets, a duty that now falls to every officer on the street.
Last month, it was announced that the city would receive funding through the U.S. Justice Department’s COPS Hiring Program. The city had sought funding for six officers but was awarded funding for one, DalPorto said.
In addition to the ramp at the former Rainbow Centre mall and various lots in the downtown area, the city has a two-hour limit for on-street parking, a system Mayor Paul A. Dyster has wanted to change.
But last month, the Council majority shot down the administration’s proposal to set aside $1 million to remake the downtown parking system, which involved purchasing new parking equipment, including pay-and-display meters, and adding the job of parking director to oversee a firm hired to run the system.
Dyster on Tuesday said his administration is still open to trying to work with lawmakers to implement the consulting firm’s recommendations that led to last month’s proposal.
Dyster’s proposed budget for next year anticipates a doubling of revenue from parking violations, from $350,000 to $700,000, City Controller Maria Brown said during Tuesday’s budget hearing in City Hall on the proposed spending plans for the Police and Fire departments.
“There’s going to have to be increased enforcement of the system we have now, while we’re in the process of inaugurating whatever comes next,” Dyster said after the hearing.
One potential new enforcement mechanism the city is considering to crack down on scofflaws who chronically ignore parking tickets is a “boot-type” device that immobilizes the vehicle of offenders.
The city’s also looking at enacting towing procedures for offending vehicles and purchasing license plate scanners to help identify scofflaws, the mayor said.
Overall, there are about $3 million in unpaid parking tickets outstanding to the city, DalPorto told lawmakers.
In another police matter, the department and administration are considering implementing a program that increases a uniformed presence in the tourist area downtown without using police officers.
It’s called the “ranger program” and is still in a development phase because the department is still waiting for recommendations from the federal government, DalPorto said.
Funding is proposed as part of next year’s Community Development Department budget, which allocates funds provided to the city from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“They’re basically going to be eyes and ears to help tourists and have a presence down there that would come at a huge cost if it was police officers,” DalPorto said.
The Council is in the process of reviewing Dyster’s proposed budget, which must be in place by early December.
A hearing on the proposed budgets for the Department of Code Enforcement and the Department of Public Works will be held at 4:30 p.m. today in Council Chambers in City Hall, 745 Main St.