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Legionnaires lobby to keep parking spaces

By Kendra Caruso | Jun 12, 2019

After hearing conflicting views from American Legion members and City Manager Joe Slocum, the City Council tabled a proposition that would eliminate three parking spaces near the Legion building on Church Street.


A temporary parking ban is in place on Church Street in front of the new courthouse. Slocum wants to eliminate three spaces in front of the American Legion Building — two of which are handicapped-accessible — in that same section of street before the parking ban is lifted.


The street there is 29 to 30 feet wide from curb to curb, and 8-foot parking spaces on both sides of the street would leave only 14 feet for two-way traffic. According to Slocum’s calculations, that's not enough space.


Roger Birks, Commander of Belfast American Legion Post 43, and other members have different measurements, which imply that there are 29 feet from the edge of the handicapped space on the corner of Church and Market streets in front of their building to the other side of the road on the curb in front of the new courthouse. This would leave 16 feet of driving space for two-lane traffic, by their measurements.


City Council members asked questions about the conflicting calculations before suggesting that American Legion members and Slocum need to meet and take measurements together before addressing the council again.


The American Legion lost parking spaces when the new courthouse was built.  Those spaces provided convenient access to the Post for members, most of whom are older and have disabilities.


“I’d say we probably have 80 to 100 members here.  Probably, they’re Vietnam veterans and over, so they’re 65 and older,” Birks said.


Birks doesn’t expect attendance to decrease if the spaces are eliminated, but he is concerned about elderly and disabled members walking longer distances to attend meetings and events.


“I do not think it will affect the attendance. (...) If it did affect the attendance it would be minor. But a lot of the guys who would like to get closer, they’ll have to get dropped off at the door. Someone would have to go find a place to park and come back and get them. It’s just an inconvenience as much as anything,” he said.


Birks mentioned city officers and officials receiving special treatment while parking their cars for periods of time beyond the two-hour limit near the courthouse, which is another parking inhibitor.


“There’s government vehicles down there that park for eight hours in a two-hour zone and the city just, I guess they treat government vehicles different than they do civilian vehicles,” Birks said.


The commander is hopeful that members of the American Legion and Slocum can come to an agreement when they measure the street together.


“Right now I’m viewing this as an honest mistake on the part of the city manager and we will get together and look at this together. And it will all work out fine. But if it doesn’t, it just creates a hardship for the older veterans,” Birks said.


The American Legion and Slocum have not yet established a time to meet about taking new measurements.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Eric Schrader | Jun 13, 2019 06:42

The solution is make that short stretch one way into town and put back the parking spaces on the courthouse side of the street. The City forgets that there is a Post Office annex in the building. The spaces are needed for quick mail pickups. I know. I had a PO box there for a year.

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