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May 27, 2014 | 02:35 PMSylvia Martinez-Mullally was accidentally introduced as the “new parking structure.”
Martin Smith, chairman of the Lake Geneva Parking Commission, may be excused for making that mistake. Parking structures have been on city officials’ minds for a while.
However, as Smith quickly corrected himself, Martinez-Mullally is the city’s first, and brand new, parking supervisor.
May 21 was her first formal meeting with the parking commissioners.
After spending her first two weeks walking about the city and surveying the city parking system and how the parking department works, Martinez-Mullally indicated that she wanted to make a few tweaks.
And she especially wanted to know what the parking commission wanted from her as supervisor.
First of all, Martinez-Mullally said the department’s name, “parking enforcement,” should be changed to “parking services.”
And the green uniforms should be changed, she said.
City Administrator Dennis Jordan, who was also at the meeting, suggested in addition that the parking enforcement logo, which has a law enforcement star, be removed and replaced by a more public-friendly logo.
Jordan suggested the uniforms might be muted to a dark blue. Martinez-Mullally said the parking service workers do much more than write parking tickets. They are already involved in public service.
They are in almost constant contact with residents and visitors, she said.
“They get asked a lot of questions and not just about parking,” Martinez-Mullally said.
She said they are asked about the city’s best restaurants, where to get a good steak and even if they give tours of the city.
Martinez-Mullally added she doesn’t think softening up the department’s image is going to necessarily result in a complaint-free system.
“I know I’m not going to be loved,” said Martinez-Mullally. “It’s parking.”
Martinez-Mullally knows parking.
She was the parking department supervisor at Chicago State University for 11 years.
Martinez-Mullally told the commissioners that the campus has 10 buildings, 2,000 parking spaces and a 5,000-seat convocation center.
She said there were times when events drew more cars than the campus had parking. Parking services had to direct cars to available off-campus parking and provide transportation to get visitors from their cars to an event and then back again, she said.
“The culture is very different here,” she said of city government. “But it’s still parking.”
As for Lake Geneva’s parking setup, it’s a very good one, Martinez-Mullally said.
She said she is particularly pleased with a system in which none of the parking system staff has to touch money.
If there are any needs, it’s that there needs to be an improvement in communication, especially between the parking services and the customers who use the parking system.
Martinez-Mullally said she wanted to know from the commissioners why the position was created.
“Obviously, this position was created because something was missing,” she said. “You had enforcement. You had the rules in place.”
John Button, a parking commissioner, said the parking department was short on technical knowledge and aspects of the city’s parking system. The city needed someone to coordinate the department’s activities, he said.
“It’s a big department,” said Kevin Fleming, also a parking commissioner. “It brings in a million dollars a year; it needs daily oversight.”
Martinez-Mullally said she is already in contact with vendors who have cell phone apps that can give persons who park more options.
Among other suggestions by Martinez-Mullally:
• The city might consider making it possible for people to pay parking tickets at the kiosk, instead of having to come to city hall. However, the city also needs to ensure that users don’t push the wrong buttons and discover they paid $12 for a parking ticket, when whey really wanted to pay $5 for five hours of parking.
• Perhaps a formal explanation about the city’s Luke parking meters and city parking regulations could be written into a brochure, and copies could be left in boxes attached to the parking kiosks for visitors to take and refer to.
She said she also found that, despite the stickers on the kiosks and the notes flashing in the window, people still don’t know some of the kiosk functions.
• The winter free parking, from Nov. 1 to April 30, should be for city residents only. Now, it extends to everyone.