LEWISTON — City crews and officials were getting ready for a winter storm Wednesday, making sure both snowplows and a new parking ban were ready to go, if needed.
"We are putting the plows on the trucks as we speak," Public Works Director David Jones said Tuesday. "It's the only way we have of making sure the storm turns and goes out to sea. If we don't put the plows on and have the trucks ready to go, that's a sure way to make it come in and nail us."
City officials were not expecting much from the winter storm Athena, the first named snow event of the season. Forecasts called for 1 to 3 inches overnight.
Jones said he does not expect the city to ban downtown parking because of this storm.
"I think it's going to take more than 1 to 3 inches before we initiate the parking ban," he said. "If we have to plow, which depends on how much snow we get, we're going to have our guys concentrate on the roadways. We don't expect to be working downtown."
But City Hall officials were busy trying to spread the word about the new parking ban policy. The city has created a page on the City's website, www.lewistonmaine.gov, with information about the parking ban.
Dot Perham-Whittier, the city's community relations coordinator, said the city had booths at the Lewiston Armory and Longley Elementary School polling places Tuesday to remind residents of the parking ban.
The city banned overnight parking in the downtown from Dec. 1 through the end of March under the old rules, requiring downtown residents to find alternative places to keep their cars overnight during the winter months.
Downtown residents and landlords complained that this was a hardship throughout most of the winter. In September, council members agreed to change to a storm-by-storm ban.
According to the new policy, the city will notify residents via TV, radio, newspapers, the city's website, text messages and email when a new policy will go into effect. The city has also set up a parking ban telephone hot line at 513-3141 that residents can call to check.
Downtown residents will have to move their cars off the city streets during the ban to make room for city plows, moving them to city parking lots and garages. The city has a list of available parking lots on its website.
Residents can park on the street at any other time throughout the season.
Cars that are left on the street during the ban will be towed, and owners will be assessed a $30 fine, as well as towing and storage costs — in addition to any outstanding parking tickets. Owners can call the towing information line at 784-6421 to find out which towing company took their car and how they can get it back.
Jones said he is concerned that the new policy will delay snowplowing.
"Once people get used to parking overnight, they may not pay as much attention as they should," Jones said. "That's why we're putting so much effort into getting people signed up and becoming aware of what can happen."