08/14/06 — Parking violators must now fix signs

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Parking violators must now fix signs

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on August 14, 2006 1:53 PM

More than a month after receiving a warning letter from the city, time has expired for 450 local businesses with invalid handicapped parking signs, officials said.

Chief Building Inspector Ed Cianfarra said most of those warned had no idea they were in violation and have made an effort to bring their parking lots up to code.

"I think overall, the receptiveness was right there," Cianfarra said. "People didn't know. They were unaware that they were out of compliance, and I understand that. You know, when you're running a business, you've got 50 million other things to worry about and sometimes, things like your parking lot just doesn't ring a bell."

While some quickly brought their signs into compliance, others had questions for inspectors, he said.

"We had to answer a bunch of questions," Cianfarra said. "Overall, everybody who had one, we've answered it to the best of our ability. I've sent my staff out to pinpoint exactly where we want (the signs) and how they should look."

Now that questions have been answered on the city's time, inspectors will go out and check for those still in violation, Cianfarra added.

"My problem is, I don't have someone who doesn't already have an important enough job," he said. "These guys are inspectors and with all the new construction, I don't have anybody that is just a laborer to take a list of all the 450 letters that we've sent and take all day today and this week going out and verifying these one by one."

Still, the task, while daunting and inconvenient, is in the city's best interest, Cianfarra said. So, after all the "extra time" inspectors are putting in to fixing the problem, fines are a guarantee -- to make sure their time was well-served, he added.

"What these guys are going to have to do, in their spare time, is to catch them," he said. "When I get them, I will have no reason not to fine them. Not only have they gotten the time limit that I originally gave them, I even put in the newspaper the 10-day extension that I gave them. Now, if I wait another week, that's close to 25 days, so I'm going to start fining them. We will start visiting businesses piece by piece. The longer it takes my men to do them, the less excuses I will accept. I'm not going to accept excuses anymore."

Last summer, after "years of the handicapped parking issue bouncing from department to department," members of the Mayor's Committee for Persons with Disabilities conducted a citywide survey that revealed "shocking results," they said. Of the 836 businesses visited by the group, more than 700 failed to meet handicapped parking standards set by the federal government -- many by having no signs at all.

Cianfarra said to be in compliance, businesses must have one handicapped parking space for every 25 spots in their lot. The signs themselves must have particular dimensions, the correct fine of $250 listed, notification of van accessibility and reference to the General Statute, he added.

Last month, Cianfarra said he was not looking forward to fining businesses, but would do so to protect the city from a potential lawsuit and heavy fines.

"I'm not looking forward to fining anyone or any business," he said in July. "But people need to understand that this is a federal law that the people of Goldsboro have to come into compliance with. And what everybody else needs to understand is that if we do not come into compliance, the city of Goldsboro has the possibility of being sued by the federal government. I am not going to waste the taxpayers money by allowing that to happen. Their fines start at $10,000 a day and work up from there."

Now that the worst violators have been identified and warned, Cianfarra's staff will wait a few months before sending out letters to the remaining 200-plus on the list. Hopefully, he said, the threat of fines will eliminate the problem altogether by the end of the year.

"I want to finish this process," he said. "I do not want my staff to take the time to deal with new situations until we clear up the old ones. I think, and I would hope, by the end of the year we'll have given people enough time to have the entire city, or close to it, in compliance. I think the city of Goldsboro should then be very proud, as a city, that we have made this effort."