By Hillary Borrud

The Bulletin

Downtown Bend Business Association Executive Director Chuck Arnold likes to compare parking spaces in downtown Bend to tables in a restaurant.

“Just like tables in a busy restaurant, if you’re not turning them over, you’re not selling any food,” Arnold told the City Council at a meeting in January. This is why the two-hour limit for downtown street parking makes sense, Arnold said.

“In the end, it is customer parking on the streets,” Arnold said on Friday. When employees of businesses park on the street, “they’re taking money out of everybody’s pocket.”

Nonetheless, some of the people who repeatedly receive tickets for violating the time limit and other parking laws are business owners, according to The Bulletin’s analysis of five years of data from Diamond Parking Services, the company that enforces city parking code.

Bend-La Pine Schools Board Chairwoman Cheri Helt and her husband, Stephen Helt, have received 45 tickets since 2008. The couple own Zydeco Kitchen & Cocktails on Northwest Bond Street. Eight of the Helts’ parking tickets were voided, according to Diamond Parking. The Helts spent nearly $1,700 to pay the remaining tickets. On Friday, Helt said this is simply the cost of doing business.

“If I’m bringing stuff, I’m running errands, I’m not going to want to carry something heavy from the parking garage,” said Helt, who added that she and her husband have a permit for the city’s downtown parking garage which they also use.

Diamond Parking has issued more than 66,000 tickets and 3,600 warnings to people for violating parking laws over the last five years. The people who received tickets paid more than $1.1 million to the city over the last five years. Drivers can often lower their ticket amounts by paying them quickly or appealing to the municipal court judge.

The city has tweaked its parking rules several times in recent years in an effort to make sure there is enough turnover to attract customers downtown.

In 2010, the city increased the distance that people must move their vehicles to avoid a ticket after two hours, from 500 feet to 750 feet. The city also adopted escalating fines for repeat offenders that year, Diamond Parking Area Manager Terence Spakousky told the City Council in January.

Helt said she receives tickets even when she does not park in the same spot for more than two hours because if she leaves to run an errand and then returns to park in the same area, that still violates the city’s prohibition on moving a vehicle a short distance to avoid a ticket. “When I’m catering or doing things like that, I’m not able to abide by their time-limit rules because I don’t get credit for when I leave. Essentially, it is a cost of us doing business,” she said. “It’s not going to ever change, because we have to be close to drop things off at the restaurant.”

The last time the city commissioned a study of downtown parking availability was in 2002, and city councilors said in January that they were interested in paying for a new parking study, with money saved up from parking fees paid by downtown developers. However, Arnold said on Friday that the board of the Downtown Bend Business Association is also interested in using some of this money to install better signs encouraging people to use the city parking garage.

Meanwhile, the people who received the most tickets are not always the ones with the most unpaid tickets. A vehicle registered to Anthony Sprando received 128 tickets over the last five years and Sprando paid 122 of them, at a total cost of more than $2,400. According to Diamond Parking, five of those tickets were voided and Sprando still owes the city $108 for the one outstanding ticket from August 2011. Sprando did not return a call for comment.

Sprando received a lot of $22 tickets, which Diamond Parking issues to people who overstay the two-hour parking limit. Some of the most expensive tickets are issued to people without a valid permit who repeatedly park in spaces reserved for disabled drivers. Spakousky said people who receive these citations often alter their permits to extend the expiration date.

One of the vehicles that received several tickets for violating disabled parking space rules was registered to J.L. Ward Co., of which Jan Ward is the president. Ward said his wife received the tickets because although she has a disabled parking permit, she did not always hang it in a visible location.

“She got two or three of them for parking in a no-parking zone for handicapped,” Ward said. Diamond Parking actually wrote Ward five $190 tickets for disabled parking violations, three of which were voided. The fourth was reduced. After Diamond Parking issued a $380 frequent offender ticket in 2011, a municipal judge lowered it to $100.

— Reporter: 541-617-7829, hborrud@bendbulletin.com

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