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1:24 PM Sun, Sept. 23rd

Prescott Council pushes for action on persistent downtown problems

PRESCOTT - One "dysfunctional" alley plus a host of businesses that depend on regular deliveries from large trucks equals a clogged-up situation on most days of the week for Prescott's Whiskey Row.

That was the view of several Prescott City Council members, who continued their discussion this week on problems that have plagued the downtown area for decades.

The delivery-truck dilemma was just one of the issues to emerge during Tuesday's continuation of the downtown discussion that began with an informal council caucus meeting in April.

Councilman Chris Kuknyo, who helped to lead the earlier discussion, presented a list of suggested recommendations on downtown issues at this week's meeting.

Among the suggestions: "Find a better or alternative way for delivery trucks (currently using turn lane and center of double-yellow line) to park and make deliveries at all hours."

Councilman Charlie Arnold, who noted that his own business makes regular deliveries in the downtown area, agreed that the current situation is problematic.

"At the end of the day, the (Whiskey Row) alley is dysfunctional as far as deliveries go," Arnold said.

That leaves many of the large trucks that are dispensing soft drinks and beer to park in the traffic lanes on Whiskey Row. Arnold said it occurs on most days of the week, and not only causes traffic congestion, but also creates an unsafe environment for pedestrians.

Councilman Steve Blair, who - along with Kuknyo and Arnold - met after the April caucus meeting to narrow down the recommendations, maintained that some relatively easy fixes exist.

For instance, Blair said, a move to prohibit truck deliveries near the Whiskey Row crosswalk could improve pedestrian safety. Having the trucks parked adjacent to the crosswalk "really obstructs the vision (of other drivers)," he added.

Council members also pushed for a parking-ticket system that would allow the city's parking attendant to give warnings to first-time or out-of-town offenders of the two-hour parking limit.

Arnold said the city gets regular complaints from tourists about the parking citations they get while shopping or dining downtown. He said a number of computer programs are available, which would allow the parking attendant to enter a license-plate number and determine immediately whether the owner is a first-time, or repeat offender.

Such specific suggestions raised a concern from Mayor Marlin Kuykendall, however.

"I think we have to be extremely careful," the mayor said. "Telling staff what to do can get cloudy. Our job is to set policy. We have to always keep our role in mind."

Arnold agreed that while "it's not our job or role to tell staff 'you are going to do this,'" he maintained that it is important for the council to hear regular progress reports from staff.

Kuknyo added that the council members are serving as "liaisons to the public" on the downtown issues. "These weren't issues that were dreamed up by us; they were brought to us by the public," he said.

Added Blair: "All of these things on this list (of recommendations) have merit. I hope it doesn't just sit on the shelf."

City Manager Craig McConnell agreed that all of the recommendations "are worthy of consideration. It's a matter of what's the approach?"

McConnell suggested that the council and staff members should continue to communicate on the issues through future meetings and caucuses.

After the meeting, Arnold said he hopes that some of the issues, such as the new parking ticket system, will come up at the council's all-day budget workshop on May 21.