By Maria Weaver
Hamilton City Council last Thursday passed the first reading of an ordinance that would make it illegal to double-park vehicles on city streets for the purpose of storage.
The council also discussed cleanup and possible lighting for Pecan Creek Park, repair of the Hamilton Municipal Pool, heard reports from Hamilton County Youth Livestock Association, Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, Hamilton Economic Development Corporation and Hamilton Police Department and called an election for May 6.
“In the best interest of the citizens of Hamilton, the City should maintain clean and unobstructed flow of traffic on City-maintained streets,” said City Administrator Pete Kampfer. “The parking ordinance is a valuable tool that helps the City address and maintain clean and unobstructed streets in the event of emergencies and for the normal safe flow of traffic.
“We have had complaints within the community of people utilizing the streets in a commercial enterprise and activity,” he said. “This is not about storing a mobile home on the street while cleaning it out, and not about the traditional mode of keeping things.
“It’s about stacking vehicles during the day when trying to have egress and movement throughout the streets for safety.”
Kampfer said he, Hamilton Police Chief Robert McGinnis and City Attorney Connie White drew up the ordinance.
“The city council has the authority to regulate parking on city streets,” White said. “That is what this does. It is already the law that double parking is illegal, but this emphasizes parking, not temporary, parking for storage. It is authorized by state law, and it is appropriate, if you are in favor, to adopt it and pass it to the second reading.”
According to the ordinance, “overnight parking for storage on any street or right-of-way is hereby prohibited.”
Overnight parking is defined as the habitual parking or storage of cars, trucks, tractors or other vehicles or trailers on streets or rights-of-ways during the hours from sundown to sunup, except temporarily disabled vehicles which are protected by flares or other approved signal devices.
The ordinance excepts passenger cars parked overnight for non-commercial purposes where there is lack of other available parking.
Violation of the ordinance will be a misdemeanor charge and subject to fine up to $500 for each offense.
The council will have its second reading of the ordinance at next month’s regular meeting.
Council members and chamber manager Kim Hinton discussed cleanup at the park, and Hinton suggested volunteer forces adopt sections and be responsible for their upkeep.
“If you’ve been down on the trail lately, it’s in bad shape from debris, trash and leaves,” she said. “I have heard a lot from the community who want to participate in a volunteer program.”
Hinton said the portions of the trail near Kooken Field and near the ballfields are in good shape, but the parts in between need a lot of work.
“I’m suggesting a trail cleanup program involving the community,” she said. “Organizations, churches, businesses and even families can adopt parts of it and not do the trimming and mowing but keep the leaves raked and trash picked up.”
Hinton suggested a work day on March 26 to get the trail in shape and kick off the volunteer program.
Hinton also addressed the council about the lights on the square and suggested they be refurbished and moved to the trail.
The lights were bought by businesses in 1993 but have not worked in several years.
Hinton said she originally tried to get them refurbished and left on the square but it was cost prohibitive with estimates at more than $40,000.
Moving them to the trail would cost about $11,700 with C&F Steel, Cozby Electric and Higginbothams donating sandblasting, electrical labor and use of trenching equipment, respectively, she said.
“What I’m asking for is let’s move forward with doing something with the lights,” Hinton said. “They are in bad shape, they don’t work, and they’re busted. I’m asking permission to do something.
“I will do whatever everybody wants me to do. I know they have sentimental value, but we need to do something.”
“The real issue is not where they are installed but about powering them,” Kampfer said. “If we could find a way to go solar, that would fit into the bigger picture.”
“The main thing is paying for it,” Jack Kindle said.
“I’m curious as to community input,” said Mayor Mike Collett. “What would they like to see done in that regard with the lights? I suspect they want to find a way to salvage and utilize them properly.”
“My concern is vandalism,” said Beverly Gilstrap, and John Galindo agreed.
“What if we remove them and store them while we develop a plan to either put them back in place or put them to some alternate use?” Collett asked. “That way we address the negative impact to the storefronts today, but the community knows that they are stored and we are working on a long-term plan.”
The council agreed to take them down and possibly get them sandblasted and refurbished before storing them so they will be ready for whatever use is prescribed in the comprehensive plan.
“I want people who donated the lights to know what we are doing,” Gilstrap said. “We’re not getting rid of them.”
Regarding the city pool, Kampfer said, “It’s old, delapidated and in disrepair. The deck is shot, the pumps are from the ’40s.”
He suggested that a new lining and plaster be installed at the pool, which is one of the oldest in the state.
“My idea, if I had to broadly state it, most communities go more to splash park environments,” he said. “Right now, this little town cannot afford a swimming pool.
“We’re prioritizing street repair over the next few years,” he said. “However, if done correctly, we could put together a splash park in three years. It’s reasonable now to start planning.
“Meantime, we can plaster the pool and keep going.”
Kampfer estimated the pool costs the city $30,000 to $40,000 per year, not counting water and labor.
“How much are we losing in water?” Gilstrap asked.
City Secretary Ryan Polster said he did a study in August 2010 and between water, electricity and chlorine, the city lost $80 a day by operating the pool.
“The worst problems are leakage and evaporation,” Kampfer said, “with total water loss in excess of 20 percent last year.”
The new liner and plaster will reduce leakage by 90 percent, he said.
“A pool is an amenity, and usually amenities follow economic development,” he said. “You create more jobs, then create the amenity.”
The council voted to issue a request for proposals for repair of the pool.
Faith Massingill and Charlette Boyd represented the HCJLA at the meeting, and Massingill gave a presentation on improvements the organization has made at Fair Park since they took over its operation last year.
The facility has been used for multiple purposes over the year, and is booked for several more this spring.
“Impressive,” said Collett of the progress made at the pavilions, kitchen, grounds and arena.
Kampfer presented the chamber and EDC financial reports as well as delivering the EDC’s recommendation for a new board member. However, members of the council had not met the proposed new board member and tabled the item until they can meet her.
McGinnis presented the required racial profiling report to the council and said his department has not received any complaints of racial profiling.
McGinnis also presented the annual crime report and said that in 2016 there were 554 criminal offenses in Hamilton with a total clearance rate of 86.7 percent.
McGinnis said that in January his department received 127 calls for service, made 13 arrests and issued 143 citations including warnings.
He said animal control received 17 calls, two animal bites were investigated, nine animals were impounded, two claimed by owners and one adopted.
McGinnis added that for those who want to adopt dogs, the city waives the impound fee, and the prospective owner only pays for the $5 city tag and rabies vaccination.
He added that hospital security began Jan 28 with two officers at Hamilton General Hospital Friday through Sunday.
“We’ve received nothing but positive feedback from the hospital,” he said.
In closing, McGinnis commented that HPD has not been part of the online solicitation stings conducted by Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office.
“If we look at the vast majority, these are not locals,” he said. “We absolutely do not have this problem.”
McGinnis added that there are 21 registered sex offenders in the city, and they are monitored closely.
“We are on top of them,” he said. “They are staying out of trouble.”
In other business, the council approved a resolution to call a municipal election.