In an attempt to cut down on the number of semi-trailer trucks parking illegally along Olathe roads and highway ramps, city leaders are dramatically increasing the fines levied on the drivers.
City council members voted on Tuesday to boost the cost of a citation from the current $30 per violation to $500. Deputy City Attorney Chris Grunewald said the new fines are scheduled to go into effect Aug. 29.
“We want to have a high fine,” Grunewald told the council, who were initially surprised by the large jump. “We believe it was the council’s intent to send a message, and this sends a message (to drivers) that this is important, don’t make this the cost of doing business.”
Grunewald said the $30 fine was not working as a deterrent, noting that the Olathe Police Department issued 70 citations to trucks parking along roads and highway ramps between April and June of this year alone.
“Our concern is safety,” said Police Chief Steven Menke. “We don’t want these large vehicles parked adjacent to high-speed off-ramps and roadways. It’s a recipe for disaster.”
Grunewald said in many cases drivers are parking for hours because the businesses they are working with have limited time windows for pickups or deliveries, and federal law mandates the amount of time drivers can operate their vehicles without rest — and the nearest truck stop could be miles away.
A particular area of concern is near the Aldi grocery store distribution center in northern Olathe, where trucks regularly park along the ramps to Kansas 7 and College Boulevard, said councilman Jim Randall.
Randall said he has spoken to officials at Aldi and asked for their help in explaining to drivers that parking along the roads and highways is illegal and dangerous. He said the trucks can’t stay on Aldi’s property because of the constant movement of trucks coming into and leaving the complex.
“While I understand (the drivers’) plight, the challenge that we have with safety here … is something we’ve got to do something about,” Randall said.
Grunewald said the city would share information on the new fines with area distributors to communicate to truck drivers and plans to post signs along highway ramps bearing the new fine amounts.
Councilman John Bacon said he wanted to fix the problem, but he also encouraged officers to give drivers the benefit of the doubt if they park for short period to make a phone call, address an emergency or focus on other things that would be dangerous to do while driving.
“I hope we’re not issuing tickets of $500 for someone who’s not there overnight,” Bacon said.
In other business, the council voted unanimously to approve the city’s 2019 budget. The spending plan includes total spending of $389 million, including $107.7 million for the general fund, which covers the majority of city operations and represents a 5 percent rise from the current year.
Despite the increase, the city’s tax rate is expected to dip a quarter-mill to 24.45 mills. A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 of assessed property value.
The new budget also includes a 3.5 percent increase in water rates and a 4.5 percent increase in sewer rates.
The council also voted unanimously to rezone 17.3 acres at the southwest corner of 127th Street and Mur-Len Road for a mixed-use development. The project, proposed by Bach Homes, will include 294 residential units in a mix of single-family homes, townhouses and four-story apartment buildings. It will also feature almost 28,000 square feet of commercial space, including a proposed drug store at the corner of 127th and Mur-Len and a convenience store/gas station at the corner of 129th Street and Mur-Len.
Nick Mason with Bach Homes said he would begin construction quickly and, if all goes to plan, could open the first phase of the development by next year.
Council members also signed off on an agreement where GPS product manufacturer Garmin International Inc. will contribute $2.1 million toward a pair of traffic improvement projects aimed at alleviating the company’s effect on nearby roads. The city is making a series of lane and entrance changes along 151st Street and Ridgeview Road as well as extending Mahaffie Circle from 151st Street to Old 56 Highway and Church Street. The total cost of the projects, which also includes $7 million from the Kansas Department of Transportation, is $17.4 million.
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