by Amie Sites
After a year and a half of living in their home, David and Stephanie Looker are now able to park in front of their house on 20th Street without a problem.
With help from their landlord, Verlie Mettler, they convinced the city to paint a handicapped parking spot in front of their residence about a month and a half ago, said David.
Stephanie has myotonic muscular dystrophy, David explained, and their landlord noticed that they could never find a place to park in front of their house. They would have to park a block away, David said, or he would drop his wife off and then find a different place to park.
“I’ve had two surgeries on my leg in the last year,” David said. “There have been times when neither of us could get around.”
Looker said he asked his neighbor, who has three vehicles, if he could not park directly in front of his house, but the neighbor refused. Mettler went to the mayor and deputy mayor and told them about the issue, asking that a handicapped spot be painted in front of the house.
“We appreciate our landlord going that distance for us,” Looker said. “We were very happy the city was so fast at getting the parking spot placed.”
Although it breaks from past tradition, the handicapped parking spot was painted in a residential area to accommodate the special circumstances, officials say.
Public works superintendent Dan Williams said this was the first such request he had dealt with. However, it’s not the first request the city has seen, he said.
Former street superintendent Don Crain said he never painted handicapped parking spots in the past, despite requests.
“It was never a big issue,” Crain said. “I would tell people we didn’t paint handicapped spots in residential areas, but if they weren’t satisfied they could go in front of the board of works.”
Residents would try other options, Crain said, like going with a traffic officer to talk to people who were constantly parking in the area. When he first started, he added, some people were asking for handicapped parking spots without legitimate grounds. They just wanted a spot to themselves.
Former Mayor Mike Fincher said he fielded three or four requests during his eight years in office.
“It was our understanding that in front of a residence we were never allowed to paint a spot because it’s a city street,” Fincher said. “This all happened before me, and I just carried it on.”
Painting one spot would open up a can of worms they didn’t want to open, he said. If they gave a spot to one person, they would have to give it to all people.
Mayor Ted Franklin said the handicapped parking spot for the Lookers accommodated a special circumstance. Normally, he said, he would try to deal with the issue in other ways before creating a special spot.
He mentioned a situation on 11th Street where a neighbor had cars parked up and down the street to the point that visiting nurses weren’t able to park near a house to help the residents. After police started ticketing the cars, Franklin said, the problem went away.
“I’m trying to be responsive and as accommodating as I can,” Franklin said. “We’ve had about five requests, and we try to do everything else before going to that next step.”
• Amie Sites is a reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5150 or firstname.lastname@example.org.