09/15/06 — Handicapped Parking

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Handicapped Parking

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on September 15, 2006 1:52 PM

Goldsboro chief building inspector Ed Cianfarra said time is up for businesses in violation of handicapped parking rules and the first fines have been handed down.

"This is just starting," he said. "We will be checking."

The first violators -- AMF Boulevard Lanes on Berkeley Boulevard, Auto Care on John Street and Carolina Radiator Service on William Street. The fines -- $100 each.

Earlier this summer, Cianfarra and his staff sent out more than 450 letters to businesses guilty of the "most grievous" handicapped parking violations as cited by the Mayor's Committee for People with Disabilities.

An Aug. 1 deadline was set and those businesses that failed to comply by that date are now subject to a fine that starts at $50, then hits $100 and culminates in a $250 penalty, he said.

Cianfarra said currently, inspectors are using all available time to make sure those who received letters have come into compliance.

"I think they are doing a wonderful job," he said. "They've divided the city up, rather than just leaving it to one staff member. They're all chipping in to get these (businesses) done because they know I have another 450 letters to send out."

The process is time-consuming, but worth it, Cianfarra added.

"It makes the city a better place," he said. "This is Goldsboro. I wasn't born here, but I call this place my home, and I'm trying to make it a good place for everybody to live."

And many of the business owners he has dealt with thus far agree, Cianfarra added. Most simply did not know the rules, but were happy to learn, he said.

"I think that more people, those people who have been calling in and asking questions, are learning a lot," Cianfarra said. "Some people are being made aware, who are wonderful business people who have really helped the community. They were totally surprised ... They were totally unaware that they had to deal with the Americans With Disabilities Act."

And so, when they learned they were in violation, many moved quickly to resolve the problem, he added.

"Basically they have called and said, 'I really didn't know about it, and I'm sorry that we're out of compliance,'" Cianfarra said. "Once I made them aware of it, they were very concerned about being out of compliance. Sometimes, things like that just don't dawn on people until they get a letter."

Still, some local businesses are already dealing with fines. Of the three listed, only one owner offered comment.

A man who identified himself as the owner of Carolina Radiator said he would fight the city on this issue -- his business has appropriate signs up in the lot and has not received any official word from the city other than a letter, he said.

"I'm not paying it, because I've got my sign up," he said. "I haven't had any face-to-face discussions with anybody from the city government either. All I got was a letter."

Cianfarra said he stands by the fines issued by his inspectors. And for those who don't think the city is taking the handicapped parking issue seriously, he added the proof is in those penalties already handed out.

"Ask the people who we fined with a smile on our face and good intentions in our heart and told that we would be back if corrections were not made," he said. "From what I understand, the signs ... cost about $100. Does that make good business sense? Sometimes, I wonder if the entrepreneurs have the right thought process. He could fix it for $100, but he's willing to pay a $100 fine and still have to put up the signs. It doesn't make much sense does it?"

Officials said they hope to have parking issues resolved sometime early next year. Cianfarra said he is confident his staff can get the job done -- even if they are spread thin.

"The notification deadline we'll make," he said. "The compliance deadline we may be behind, but that's because of the amount of construction that's going on and the projects that we know are coming. When you go out to a place like Wal-Mart and they're about to do for a concrete slab inspection, you're pouring 100,000 square feet, that's a two-day pour. It puts everything else on your schedule one or two days behind."

But if any group can accomplish the goal, Cianfarra said it is his "great team."

"I am very proud of my staff," he said. "We call ourselves a team because that's what we are. We'll get the job done."