Mayor Chris Beutler announced today that the City will discontinue use of the FirstCall notification system for snow removal parking bans. The City implemented the system Sunday, January 9, and the company failed to follow its procedure for discontinuing calls after 10 p.m., resulting in overnight calls to many residents. FirstCall took full responsibility for the calls and apologized to the community Monday, Jan. 10.
"Our intention in using the FirstCall system was to enhance service to the public and to reduce the need to ticket or tow cars," Mayor Beutler said. "But many people we heard from said the calls were bothersome rather than useful, even if they did come at a regular hour. The City is always re-evaluating procedures to see if we can do things better. When we hear from the public, we do listen and respond. FirstCall is an excellent service, but in the future, we will use it only for emergency situations."
Mayor Beutler encouraged the public to sign up to receive parking bans information through e-mail, text message or RSS feed. Links are available on the City website (lincoln.ne.gov) by clicking on "snow operations." Residents can sign up to receive notice through Twitter at twitter.com/lincolnsnow. You do not need a Twitter account to receive SMS alerts - text "follow lincolnsnow" to 40404 (standard text messaging rates apply).
The FirstCall system uses a database of listed land line phone numbers and registered cell phones. FirstCall has 53,946 numbers in its system for the Lincoln area. On January 10, the company estimated that about 90 percent of those calls were completed in 90 minutes Sunday. Further evaluation shows 78 percent of the calls — 42,184 — were completed in that time frame.
Those with land lines can opt out of the system, but Lancaster County Emergency Management Director Doug Ahlberg said that is not advisable. Those who opt out would not receive calls about severe weather, hazardous material incidents or other life-threatening emergencies. Calls can be targeted by zip code.
Those wanting to receive emergency information on their cell phones can register online at alertregistration.com/lancaster/. Those wanting more information can call Emergency Management at 441-7441. The toll-free number for FirstCall is 800-653-9232.
The City issued 1,831 tickets this week for violations of the parking ban last week. "The City does not want to ticket or tow any cars, but we have a responsibility to clear the snow as efficiently and effectively as we can," Beutler said. "When we have a snowstorm, residents need to stay informed on snow operations and take steps to get their cars off the streets."
Beutler thanked the local news media for their help in sharing information on snow operations and parking bans. Information also is posted on the City website (lincoln.ne.gov) and government access cable channels 5 and 10.
Greg MacLean, Director of the City Public Works and Utilities Department, said the City also will change the timeline for switching residential parking bans from the even to odd sides of the street to make it more convenient for residents to move their cars.
MacLean said a new procedure that worked well was the parking ban implemented for the first time in the eight new snow removal districts. In these districts, parking can be banned on both sides of the street during overnight hours for crews to haul snow out of the area. After successful operations from 2 to 7 a.m. Jan. 12 and 13, the ban for Jan. 14 was cancelled. These districts include streets in Downtown; University Place; Havelock; Bethany; College View; 11th and "G"; 17th and Washington; and 25th and Sumner. Maps can be found at lincoln.ne.gov.
The City can issue two other types of parking bans: