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Volunteers enforcing Auburn parking

Enforcers are trained, not replacing police officers
By: Bridget Jones, Journal staff writer
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Volunteers are now working to promote parking enforcement in the city of Auburn. A group of six Auburn Police Department volunteers began their routes through the city Monday, marking tires in timed parking spaces, looking for placards on vehicles parked in disabled parking spots and issuing warnings. Capt. John Ruffcorn of the Auburn Police Department said the new project would be beneficial for business owners and the residents of Auburn. “We’re not the first community to look at using volunteers for (parking enforcement),” Ruffcorn said. “I think it is exciting for the police department, the community and the city of Auburn. It is just working with the community, hearing the community voice that not having an active parking enforcement … has caused some inconveniences to our businesses and citizens.” Ruffcorn said he wants the community to know that these volunteers are only working on parking enforcement, not on any other types of law enforcement. They are not replacing Auburn police officers. Mayor Bridget Powers said this is a much-needed program. “We have not had a parking enforcement official available to do parking enforcement because of cutbacks, so we haven’t had parking enforcement for over a year,” Powers said. Powers said the results of a parking study conducted by the city showed there are enough spaces in Auburn, but lack of enforcement was the problem. Ruffcorn said the volunteers have already worked with the department in the past and have been trained in two-way radio communications, mobile data computer use, public relations, California Vehicle Code and Auburn Municipal Code. A grace period in which volunteers will be issuing warnings instead of citations will take place through June 20. Citations will be issued after that date. Jim Bril, president of the Auburn Downtown Business Association, said the program is a positive measure for the business community. “I think it is a good thing because without enforcement the three-hour parking means nothing,” Bril said. “There needs to be a presence, somebody needs to monitor it. We found the merchants were the ones echoing the fact … if (customers) couldn’t find parking, they don’t stop. We certainly have an elderly crowd, certainly my restaurant does, and they are not going to walk two blocks (from where they parked).” Kerry Arndt, president of the Auburn Old Town Business Association, said although parking enforcement has been an issue, business in Old Town is still thriving. “It really has been a real need,” Arndt said. “Especially on days like Fridays. (Customers) have to drive around a little while. We definitely still need to improve our parking situation. But it hasn’t stopped people from coming to Old Town. I think once (parking enforcement) is put into action we’ll find out how much it has been impacting us.” Powers said she asks local employees not to park on the street in front of businesses. “There are several lots that are available for parking, and it’s just going to require people to walk a block or two to get to their businesses,” Powers said. “I encourage the community to allow our out-of-town visitors to get those up-front parking spaces.” Powers said signs alerting drivers to different parking areas would be put up throughout all phases of Streetscape. Linda Robinson, owner of Sun River Clothing Company in Old Town, said she is very supportive of the enforcement program, because she knows many of the volunteers. “I work with a lot of the volunteers and they are usually retired professional people who have brought a lot of experience to our town,” Robinson said. “I think (the program) is kind of a gentle nudge for some of our merchants to remember we do have eight-hour parking in some of the peripheral parking lots.” Auburn resident Barbara Machado said she doesn’t have a problem with the program. “It’s only a parking ticket, and if you don’t want a parking ticket, move your car,” Machado said. “You have got to keep cars moving. As far as volunteers doing it, if they are qualified, I don’t see a problem with that. People aren’t used to walking in Auburn, and people should get more exercise.” Dick Wise of Wildflower on Lincoln Way said the program could be more beneficial in the summer months. “When it’s hot a lot of customers want to park close by,” Wise said. Bob Eichman of St. George, Utah, said navigating around the city to find parking isn’t as hard for him because he and his wife have come to Auburn several times, but he could understand a lack of parking enforcement being a problem for most out-of-town visitors. “I think the frustration is at times about finding a place to park,” Eichman said. “If you don’t have the parking, they’re not going to stop.” Teressa Defuentes of Uptown Signs and Graphics on High Street said she thinks the new program is not really about enforcement. “The parking enforcement has been on furlough for how long?” Defuentes asked. “It’s based on the economy and them needing to bring in more revenue. There is nothing wrong with that, they just need to be honest about it.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com