Motorists who expect parking meter "holidays" to be part of future big snowstorms in Chicago had better read the fine print in the city's parking meter contract.
Illinois PIRG points out that the 75-year contract with Chicago Parking Meters LLC raises some questions, including whether during some future storm the company might write its own parking tickets, which it has a right to do, even if the city temporarily calls off municipal enforcement.
A motorist thinking a parking meter holiday had been declared would be pretty annoyed by an unexpected ticket from the parking company.
On Friday, the Office of Emergency Management and Communications said it was suspending ticket-writing even though motorists were still supposed to feed the payboxes if they weren't buried by snow. On Saturday, city officials said no tickets would be handed out through 9 a.m. Monday downtown and through 9 a.m. Tuesday in the neighborhoods.
Here's another possible snag: The parking meter contract has a provision saying the city must reimburse Chicago Parking Meters for lost revenue if the loss is caused by the city. Could that at some point be interpreted to mean the city has to pay for not enforcing the meters? Or because snow covering the payboxes was not removed quickly enough?
Here's what Celeste Meiffren, field director of Illinois PIRG, said: "By taking over the parking meters, Chicago Parking Meters LLC has also taken over the risks associated with the meters, including extreme weather. Though the contract has no explicit language regarding this issue, Mayor Daley should not allow taxpayers to bail out the parking meter company, and should say so publicly."
Follow BackTalk on Twitter@stbacktalk