By Jessica Mathews /

Stepped up code and parking enforcement in the City of Howell prompted some recent chatter on social media.

At Monday night’s meeting, Council approved the purchase of a new T2 ticketing software with printers to issue parking tickets.

City Manager Erv Suida explained that per a court ruling, municipalities can no longer chalk tires on vehicles so enforcement over past three years has been way down because they don’t really have anything in place. He said the three handheld devices and software allow the City to enforce parking without chalking tires or physically touching a vehicle so they can once again actively enforce parking.

The devices take pictures of license plates but can also track whether a warning has been issued or not, so the next time a citation can be issued if necessary. Suida said one device will be for the parking/code officer, and the other two will be for regular police officers during off hours so they can use the same consistent device.

The City has hired a new full-time Code/Parking Enforcement Officer, who will be out monitoring parking on streets and in parking lots, along with Scofield Park checking to make sure vehicles have the proper daily or seasonal passes. The officer will also be doing code enforcement related to buildings and blight.

The new officer brings a number of years of experience in both code and parking enforcement. He’s said to be looking forward to working with the residents and guests of the City to continue making it a safe, clean and vibrant community.

The new officer was formally introduced on the City’s social media pages. The post, accompanied by a photo of the new officer and vehicle, read “We know code/parking enforcement is not always the most popular at the party, but it is necessary for keeping our community safe, maintained and able to be enjoyed by all”.

Suida reported during the meeting that they took a little bit of a lashing on social media from that in that some people viewed it as the City bought a brand new truck and spent a lot of money. He clarified that it’s really an old retired police vehicle that they re-striped for parking and code enforcement.

Suida said they’ll be working to get the facts out on the “hot topics” portion of the City’s website. He said so far it’s been pretty good and they’ll continue rolling it out the new enforcement efforts, which he thinks will be beneficial for the City in the long run.

Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Manor stated it was pretty clear that a lot of the people who were commenting on social media and complaining about paying more taxes and having to buy park passes were not actually City residents. He suggested items or visual aids be added on the website to show boundary lines for the City and townships, and explain why changes are occurring. Suida noted the Livingston County parcel viewer is a good resource.

Different types of parking violations currently have different fees attached to them, but a typical ticket is $5. Staff has been looking into the current fee structure and penalties and relayed that Council can expect to see a new ordinance coming with some changes and recommendations.

A new kiosk is now available at Scofield Park and the boat launch to give opportunities for people to purchase day passes. That allows the City to avoid staffing the guard booth and save some money. Suida commented they should see a pretty good return on investment for that pretty quickly, likely by midway this year.

Mayor Bob Ellis told WHMI after the meeting that it’s good the City is reducing blight and trying to make parking places more available to people but of course, there are some people concerned about it and don’t want tickets for parking where they’re not supposed to be parking. He said trying to do something to improve blight has been a big issue in the City and they had a part-time code enforcement officer who couldn’t really keep up with all of the issues people complained about.

Ellis said parking is another thing, especially downtown, and they get a lot of complaints about people having difficulty finding parking. With the new hire, he says they’ll be able to have full time person to solely focus on code and parking enforcement. Ellis clarified that much of the parking issue is with the two-hour limit in spots where people will park for the whole day. He says many times its employees from businesses who take up the spot all day and then customers can’t find any place to park.