Mayor offers city police officers free parking passes

As part of a four-year police contract, Mayor Gabriel J. Campana offered to give every police officer on the force a free parking pass.

“I did that after being asked by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 29,” Campana said after the issue was discussed publicly Wednesday at the Williamsport Parking Authority meeting.

Campana said he made the offer in order to get the police union to agree to concessions on health care and a benefits package.

It appears the authority is going to agree to the request, according to Dr. Anthony Cipolla, chairman of the authority. The authority didn’t vote on the issue but doesn’t see a problem with it, other than how it may be perceived with the changes coming when the city loses 300 spaces once the Mid-Town garage is removed, he added.

To make up for that loss, the city is planning to use 150 spaces when a building at 210 Market St. is razed. The process of demolition has begun.

“We’re still going to need 150 spaces,” Cipolla said.

Meanwhile, the police department, which has 49 officers, is likely to get its request.

“We’ll give them 50 passes,” Cipolla said Thursday after the meeting. “We’ll offer them the passes and rely on their good faith to use them wisely. We appreciate the police force and this is something the mayor did in the contract and we will follow through to make that happen.”

Cipolla estimated the authority would lose $12,000 of revenue in the deal.

“There’s likely going to be some shifting around by others than police in the lot across from the water authority,” Cipolla said. “These people would have been relocated anyways when the Mid-Town garage comes down.”

“It’s going to cause some temporary inconvenience until we get a new garage,” he said.

About 22 to 25 police typically work from City Hall on daytime shift assignments.

“We’re figuring, at the most, 22 on the daylight shift, counting patrol, agents and command staff,” said city Police Chief Gregory A. Foresman.

After 4 p.m., many of the parking spaces are abandoned, he said.

“We’re not looking to be bullies,” said city police Lt. Steve Helm, president of the police union.

Police have been using up to 15 spaces outside the YMCA.

“That’s rock bottom,” Foresman said. “Our union is the only one that is not provided with a parking pass.”

Helm said police would continue to pay parking tickets when enforcement officers write them up. However, Helm said, many times police are called in at a moment’s notice or must go to a court appearance and having a pass or some other solution would be of assistance during those times.

For the past 20 years, Helm said he’s never had a firm or available parking space on which to rely.

In all sorts of weather, police officers are walking from side streets and store lots several blocks from City Hall, Foresman said.

“So you’re looking not to be ticketed,” said Rose Choate, a member of the authority.

“I don’t think there is an argument the police need the parking spaces,” said Kenneth DiRocco, a member of the authority.

The authority did not vote on the issue but continues to mull it over.