For the past month the issue of on-street student parking around the high school has been talked about on social media, at office water coolers and in the grocery store check-out line.
Well, get ready for some more talking. The City of Hobbs is hosting a town hall meeting on Monday, March 11 at 6:30 p.m. in the Hobbs High School Commons. According to city officials, the intention of the meeting is to “establish a solution to the issue regarding parking on neighborhood streets in neighborhoods adjacent to the high school.”
“It is our job as the municipality to hear and respond to citizens’ concerns appropriately, which includes establishing a solution preferred by a citizen majority,” Hobbs Acting City Manager Manny Gomez states in a press release. “It is vital we all understand the process.”
Gomez stated city staff members have researched the issue in Hobbs and in other communities and surveyed those solutions.
“Citizen input is key in this process, and we thank those who already have and those in advance who choose to continue to work with us and collaborate to find a solution that fits all,” Gomez stated.
According to the release, a panel consisting of city and school officials who have worked on the issue will be present to answer questions from the community. A moderator will facilitate the discussion.
This past Monday, the Hobbs City Commission held a work session to discuss a possible solution to the issue. Presented by city attorneys Erick Scramlin and Efren Cortez, the solution is a six-step plan allowing residents to receive at least two free parking permits for on-street parking at no cost to the residents. These permits could be used by a number of people, including family members or health care workers who come to tend to ailing residents.
The other steps involve proper notification to residents, a petition for approval needed by 67 percent of the residents in the affected area defined by the city; and the implementation of signage and the permits before enforcement begins. The enforcement involves any vehicle in violation to receive a $25 ticket and an appearance in Hobbs Municipal Court.
One issue many of the residents in attendance of Monday’s meeting had was the timing of the petition, which would have to be done by them. In order to have the plan working before the end of school, residents would have needed to receive around 170 signatures of approval between March 5-15. Since Monday’s meeting was on March 4, the start of the petition process was nearly impossible to meet, said some residents, as well as Mayor Sam Cobb.
“I think the March 5th through March 15th is a bit narrow,” said Cobb, which Cortez responded that the plan was just that and its timing and implementation can all be modified by either the commission or the affected residents.
“I think the permit will work, but having us do all the leg work and to get the petitions from the neighbors is a bit much,” said William Armendariz, who lives on Gila, north of the campus. According to the city, the affected neighbors are those directly south, west and north of the high school and freshman school campus.
“I know (the city) is giving us the power to say ‘yea’ or ‘nay,’ but this is a big problem and the need for everyone to step up and iron out this problem,” Armendariz said.
Gayle Bryant, who lives west of the campus, understands the city’s reasoning for having the residents get the petitions. She says it is something the residents will have to do.
“(The residents) have gotten together several times to talk about this stuff,” said Bryant. “When I went to high school there wasn’t the option to park off campus. We had to and I don’t understand why that can’t be like that again.”
Many of the residents attended the February Hobbs school board meeting to voice their concerns. Superintendent TJ Parks said one of the issues of why students don’t park on campus is because they don’t have the proper paperwork. According to school policy, each vehicle is given a parking sticker allowing it to be on property during school time. To receive the sticker the driver has to have a license and the vehicle has to be registered and insured and some student drivers or vehicles aren’t.
Some student drivers said there are also issues of trouble getting on and off campus because they have classes at New Mexico Junior College. One student who spoke anonymously stated she parks west of the campus because she has morning classes at NMJC and school security often sends her to the office to receive a tardy slip, even though that’s not the case. The student also said she knows of others who have trouble leaving campus for afternoon classes at NMJC. So to avoid the trouble, they park off campus.
Cortney Whitley, a homeowner who lives west of the campus, brought the issue to the forefront through a social media post. Following Monday’s commission work session, she said her issue was with only a handful of students who are disrespectful to the homeowners by parking their cars in front of driveway entrances and leaving trash in their yards.
“It’s not all of the kids,” said Whitley. “Ninety percent of the kids who park in our area are respectful. But there is a minority of the kids who we have issues with.”
Todd Bailey can be reached at .