LIMA — Members of Lima City Council’s Safety Services Committee discussed the possibility of adding more handicapped parking spaces in the downtown area on Tuesday.
The meeting was called after Councilwoman Teresa Adams said she was approached by a resident concerning the availability of ample parking for handicapped individuals.
“They came back and they had a parking ticket,” Adams said. “I thought it was time to get the discussion started.”
Members of the committee seemed willing to increasing the number of handicapped spaces to as many as one per block, but later agreed to at least table the issue after hearing from several people.
The city has about 50 functioning parking meters. Individuals displaying a handicapped placard on their vehicle received an additional two hours of free parking beyond the allotted time in parking spaces. Lima Public Works Director Howard Elstro said said the city faces no federal requirement to furnish on-street parking beyond what it does.
Elstro said off-street parking is available for people downtown needing to park longer periods of time. He said that it is important the city maintain street parking control to keep the downtown area conducive to businesses.
“We have pushed our long-term parkers to off-street lots,” Elstro said. “On-street parking control is needed. We feel what we already have in place is generous enough.”
Elstro said a handicapped person parking downtown could receive as much as five hours parking.
“They could be parked there for nearly an hour before a parking control officer marks their tires,” he said. If they are in a two-hour parking area they will then have another two hours on top of that.”
Elstro said one of the common complaints received at the Traffic Control Commission meetings is people parking for prolonged period of times, preventing more shoppers from finding available parking. Bill Mullenhour, who owns a business building on the 100 block of North West Street as well as Hominstead Senior Care, backed up Elstro’s comments.
“Putting in more handicapped spots would not be conducive to businesses downtown,” Mullenhour said. “Those stickers aren’t that hard for people to get these days and we have a downtown area that is growing. I am all for people getting help but I spend a lot of time with the mayor over parking.”
Committee chairman Derry Glenn told Mullenhour he was glad he had attended the meeting, but that he was still in favor of providing more handicapped spots.
“Making it free doesn’t make it good,” Mullenhour said.
Glenn encouraged Mullenhour to attend future meetings and possibly even join a committee on the subject that may be formed later.
Elstro officially recommended that no changes to the city’s current parking situation be made.
In other business, the committee discussed the possibility of allowing the discharge of Airsoft guns within the city limits.
The issue was tossed to the committee after 16-year-old Adrian Ziegler attended a City Council meeting in November asking that Airsoft guns be allowed.
Airsoft guns are replica firearms that fire plastic pellets. These guns are designed to be non-lethal and to provide realistic replicas. The guns are commonly used for recreational war games.
Adrian, who also attended the committee meeting, provided the council with state and federal laws that designated the guns as “toys.” He explained that all Airsoft guns must have an orange tip at the end of the barrel, tipping them off as toys. However, committee members disagreed and said they likely would not support the move.
“Your neighbors aren’t going to sit around with a helmet on,” Adams said.
Lima Police Department Lt. Jim Baker said the weapons are often hard to distinguish.
“You have seconds to decide,” Baker said. “It not only affects that kid’s family if there is an accident, it affects that officer for the rest of his life.”
Ziegler said he understood the committee’s argument but felt the dangers were blown out of proportion.
“I believe they are thinking of worst-case scenarios,” Ziegler said. “I understand their position but I think their are many misunderstandings on the subject.”