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Charly Haley, Published January 31 2013

Second day of first snow emergency in Moorhead brings more towing

MOORHEAD – At least 130 vehicles were towed on Wednesday and Thursday here as the city put its new snow removal district into effect for the first time.

Forty-eight cars were towed as of 5 p.m. Thursday, said police Sgt. Thad Stafford. That comes after 82 vehicles were hauled away to the city impound lot on Wednesday, Lt. Tory Jacobson said.

Many of those surprised by the new rules were college students, as the snow zone includes the areas near both Minnesota State University Moorhead and Concordia College. The snow district was established this summer by the City Council, one of several measures designed to relieve long-standing issues with student street parking in residential areas.

Owners could retrieve their vehicles at the impound lot at U.S. Highway 75 and 15th Avenue North after paying a $95 fee at the city’s police station at 915 9th Ave. N.

“It’s very inconvenient, and the bills are going to suck,” said Sam Kleppe, an MSUM student who picked his car up at the impound lot Thursday.

Kleppe was charged extra because his vehicle has four-wheel drive, which requires more equipment to tow. His bill was $121.72.

Of the regular $95 fee, $42.75 goes to Ed’s Towing, the city’s towing contactor. The city collects the other $52.25 as an administrative fee, said city manager Michael Redlinger. That administrative fee pays for city staff, and in the past two days police and city workers have been working overtime with the snow removal, Redlinger said.

Additional fees, such as the one Kleppe paid, go to the towing company.

Jacobsen said the snow removal operation has the city losing money because staff is working overtime and snowplows idle while the operators wait for vehicles to be towed.

“The administrative fee doesn’t generate excess revenue for the city at all,” Redlinger said.

Figures on how much overtime was worked won’t be available until after the snow removal is finished.

City workers were growing frustrated that parking violations continued into Thursday.

“This is all a learning curve. It’s the first time,” Chad Martin, Moorhead’s operations director, said on Thursday, “but it is more frustrating today than yesterday.”

Martin said the snow removal district could be cleared in three hours with two plows if vehicles weren’t parked in the way.

People who park their cars in the area were growing frustrated as well. Some said the rules weren’t clear or well-communicated. For instance, a mass email to MSUM students wasn’t sent until about 45 minutes after the rules became effective on Wednesday morning.

Another example: Moorhead police officers placed warnings on vehicles overnight Tuesday and Wednesday. The warnings on Wednesday stated, “no parking on an odd side of road (south side of streets, west side of avenues).”

Moorhead streets run north and south, while avenues run east and west. So there is no parking on the south side of a street or the west side of an avenue.

That was a mistake, but the warning should have been clear, Jacobsen said.

“They just twisted the west and the south,” he said, adding that leaving warnings the night before was an “above and beyond” effort by officers.

The regulations, which apply from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., prohibited parking on the north and east sides of roads on Wednesday, in front of buildings with even-numbered addresses. Thursday, they applied to the south and north sides of roads, where buildings have odd-numbered addresses.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Charly Haley at (701) 235-7311

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