BERLIN – Town staff continue to evaluate the safety of on-street parking in Berlin in the wake of a July fire on Washington Street.
“The chief’s looking at all neighborhoods,” Mayor Gee Williams said. “When he’s ready he’s going to come before the council and make recommendations about parking.”
Washington Street resident Sara Hambury, whose garage burned downed July 30, approached the council Monday to thank town officials and staff for their help following the fire. Because the fire trucks had trouble accessing her street when they were responding to the fire, she specifically thanked officials for their efforts to control on-street parking in the weeks since.
“I’d like to say thank you to all of you for extending the event non-parking zone,” Hambury said. “During events, our non-resident visitors flood the streets of Grace and Washington and other surrounding streets.”
She said that during this month’s Small Town Throw Down and Fiddlers Convention that had not happened thanks to town staff’s installation of temporary cones and “no parking” signs along streets where parking was sometimes a problem.
“Grace Street is an extremely narrow thing and when your house is burning and you can’t find your children and it takes the fire department five-point turns to get to a water hose, yeah maybe it’s not a good place for residents to be parking,” she said.
Councilman Thom Gulyas encouraged Hambury and others in her neighborhood to share their input with Police Chief Arnold Downing as he reviewed the town’s on-street parking.
“You guys decide, you come up with some kind of an idea, work with our chief, see if it works,” he said. “It may be a little bit difficult for some people at some times but you guys live there. You’re the ones that put up with it. I’d love to make sure that you have your input heard.”
Hambury, pointing out that her backyard still looked like a fallout zone, said she’d been busy but would be happy to talk with the chief.
“Thankfully July 30 was not a windy night or historic Berlin would look significantly different,” she said.
Downing credited the community with handling the parking situation relatively well on its own. He said most residents on the older, narrow streets knew to only utilize one side of the street for parking but visitors and service technicians did not.
“Having no signs up, HVAC guys, pool guys, other visitors are the ones parking there,” he said.
Ivy Wells, the town’s economic and community development director, indicated the situation would have been worse if the fire at the Hambury residence had occurred during one of the town’s special events.
“We’re very lucky that didn’t happen during an event day because historically with the events you’ve got both sides of the street packed with cars,” Wells said. “You’re playing chicken with the drivers coming this way.”
Williams said Downing and other town staff were reviewing parking on all of the town’s streets and would make recommendations in the future.