GR: Move cars for snowplows ahead of melt

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Grand Rapids is giving residents more time to clear their sidewalks after a week of wicked winter weather, but it’s not being so lenient about odd-even parking violations.

Grand Rapids Fire Chief John Lehman spent Friday morning knocking on doors asking residents to move their vehicles so the plows can get through. 

He said he realizes the fire chief is not someone you’d expect to see enforcing parking rules.

“I guess that’s the message we want to send: that this is a very, very important thing that we get this done. Because I see problems coming down the road,” Lehman said. “Our goal here is not to write tickets. Our goal is not to tow people. Our goal is to try and make sure we can access the streets with public safety.”

While some were in violation of the odd-even rule, other vehicles parked legally were moved to help clear a path for plows. Fire crews, with shovels at the ready, helped several residents, including many elderly, dig their vehicles out.

“What we’ve found is that we’ve got vehicles that obviously haven’t moved in six days,” Lehman said. “So those are the one that we really want to concentrate on getting them out of the way.”

Grand Rapids Public Schools sent out robocalls to residents urging them to move their vehicles and opened up school lots to residents who don’t have off-street parking. Those lots were not in use as GRPS has been closed all week. Residents can park their car at any district lot Friday and Saturday. Neighborhood city lots will also be available after 5 p.m. Friday.

When city workers arrived on Ives Avenue SW Friday morning, vehicles lined both sides of the snow-clogged street.

“It’s a real catastrophe when we can’t get out of our driveways and get to work,” Ives resident Jan Southwell said.

Fire crews went to work, knocking on doors and asking residents to move their vehicles. When all was said and done, a city snowplow was able to make several passes down Ives.  

“Suddenly the street is clear and it works real well,” Southwell said.

Grand Rapids police have written some 1,100 ticket this week for violating the city’s odd-even parking enforcement ordinance. More tickets were written Friday. In several cases, ticketed vehicles were towed away.

The city is also putting together a list of cars that aren’t buried in the snow but are on the wrong side of the street. If those aren’t moved by 1 a.m. Saturday, they’ll be towed.

>>Online: Odd-even parking map

Improperly parked cars make it difficult for snowplows to get through narrow streets. And with the temperatures beginning to rise, the snow is going to start melting, so plows need to get right up to the curb to clear the catch basins to give the water somewhere to go.

“We’ve got rain coming,” Lehman said. “And with that rain coming, we’ve got all of these drains that are clogged. And if we can’t get to the drain, we’re going to have standing water. And then it’s going to freeze because the thaw is going to happen, but the freeze is going to come right after that.”

Residents can also volunteer to keep their nearby catch basins clear. Details can be found on the city’s website.

Meanwhile, the city says people can have more time to clear the sidewalks in front of their homes. City ordinance says that should be done within 24 hours of a snow event ending, but city says it won’t be worrying about enforcing that until Monday. It did ask that people clear their walks in time for students to walk to school Monday morning. The city also urged people to help out their neighbors who may not be able to clear their walks.

Residents and private plow truck drivers were reminded that they should not dump snow in streets, alleys, sidewalks or in front of fire hydrants of mailboxes. The city also has a program for people to volunteer to keep hydrants clear.

Lehman said the areas targeted Friday are the worst of the worst. The teams that took to the streets couldn’t get to every problem area. Lehman hoped the effort inspired others in the city.

“We need the cooperation of all of our citizens to come together, assist those people in your neighborhood who you know can’t get out and so this themselves,” Lehman said. “Help these neighbors get their cars unburied, help jump-start their vehicles.

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