Warner Robins council prohibits trucks from long stays in parking lots

Staff reportsFebruary 19, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- City Council unanimously approved an ordinance Tuesday that prohibits truckers from parking their rigs for more than two hours in parking lots such as the one in front of a former grocery store at Ga. 96 and South Houston Lake Road.

But an amendment to the ordinance adopted by council provides for the longer stay if truckers receive permission from the property owner of the parking lot or other private property, City Attorney Jim Elliott said.

Also, council members left the door open for discussion with truckers about a possible alternative if truckers could come up with some sort of solution, such as a parking area near the outskirts of town. The ordinance applies to “heavy vehicles,” such as 18-wheelers and cabs or trailers.

Marilyn Smith, a trucker from Taylor County, was quick to take council members up on talking about such a possibility -- asking Councilman Daron Lee for his contact information immediately after the meeting.

Lee had spoken in favor of meeting with truckers before passing the ordinance but agreed to the compromise of approving the measure as long as the door was left open for discussion with truckers.

Smith said the problem for truckers is that they’re on the road, and it’s difficult to make council meetings. She said she plans to talk with other truckers and then contact Lee.

Truckers such as Smith have said the ordinance would make their jobs more difficult, as parking for oversized vehicles is limited and federal laws require they take long rests after long hauls.

“Parking is a hassle everywhere we go, and the laws that we have to follow makes it even harder to find parking when everyone has to be off the road at some point,” Kenneth Gilbert Jr. wrote in an e-mail to The Telegraph.

Gilbert, a Macon resident, said truck drivers tend to gather in parking lots for safety reasons and to avoid break-ins.

Kiaunte Kennebrew, who transports high-end cars, told The Telegraph he has been parking his truck -- sometimes, with cars still attached -- at the former Winn-Dixie parking lot off Ga. 96 for about a year. He said the empty parking lot is a convenient, safe place close to his Lake Joy Road home.

“I’m really not hurting anyone by parking there, so I can go home to spend time with my family,” Kennebrew said.

Other truckers frequent the lot and others around the city to rest for their mandatory 10-hour breaks.

Council members said they sympathize with truckers but also need to address the concerns of residents. One concern mentioned at the pre-council meeting was that the Winn-Dixie parking lot provides a potential danger to children who ride their bicycles through it. Vague references to other issues also were made.

Smith said whatever those other issues are ought to be addressed individually. If a trucker is dumping trash, then that trucker should be fined, Smith said. But most truckers just want a place to take respite from the road, to rest or visit with family members, she said.

Smith said it’s becoming increasingly difficult for truckers to find places to stop, with other cities passing ordinances similar to the one adopted by Warner Robins.

However, council members also pointed to the Pilot Travel Center truck stop off Interstate 75 at the Ga. 247 Connector/Watson Boulevard as an alternative to park.

But Kennebrew and other truck drivers said truck stops and rest areas near the interstate do not have enough space for trucks.

In other business at the pre-council meeting, a proposal was tabled to transfer about $180,000 from the unassigned general fund balance to pay for specialty storage for the law enforcement center under construction at Watson and Armed Forces boulevards. Council members were in contention about whether the funds represented a “cushion” for the project or a cost overrun. After members were unable to agree, the matter was pulled from the agenda.

According the Redevelopment Agency, it was expected to be the last major purchase for the project.

The budget for the law enforcement center project is close to the $9.45 million earmarked in two special purpose local option sales taxes.

The Redevelopment Agency board said last week they are $800,000 under the $7.1 million construction budget. But when the land purchases, fixtures and consultant fees are taken into account, only $140,000 remains from the SPLOST monies -- which may not raise as much as estimated.

Telegraph writers Becky Purser and Christina M. Wright contributed to this report.

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