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Free hospital parking on the Maple Ridge council agenda

Members of the band were ticketed at the hospital while performing a free concert during the Christmas holidays, despite having parking passes. - THE NEWS/files
Members of the band were ticketed at the hospital while performing a free concert during the Christmas holidays, despite having parking passes.
— image credit: THE NEWS/files

Like the music of Elvis and Johnny Cash, the Rx Rockers aren’t going away.

They are taking their fight for free parking at Ridge Meadows Hospital to the stage of municipal hall, and asking for public support.

In December, the band of musicians complained that their cars were ticketed while performing at Baillie House, even though they had each displayed parking passes on their windshields.

After offering a free performance, each received a parking fine of $60.

They were able to have the charges reversed, but were irked by the indiscriminate fines, and wonder how many people would pay without complaint.

Russ Curnew, a band member, pointed out that in Mission and Delta, hospital parking is free, and said it should be in Maple Ridge, too.

He is asking people who agree with him to write Mayor Ernie Daykin. He also invites them to attend an upcoming meeting of council, when he will appear as a delegation on Feb. 4 at 1 p.m. at municipal hall.

“I want to see Impark [the company that does parking enforcement for Fraser Health] out of there, and I want council to push for no-pay parking at the hospital,” he said.

He asserts many people support his viewpoint, and virtually every day people ask the status of the issue, and encourage him to continue.

Daykin has said the district will investigate the issue, but Curnew was discouraged to find the first time the issue will be on council’s agenda is in May, as part of the overall parking bylaw.

He wants to fast-track it.

“We have to keep pushing, and get Ernie and the boys to do something about it – they’re the ones who can.”

Fraser Health spokesman Roy Thorpe-Dorward said pay parking ensures there will be a rotation of vehicles in the parking lot, and that people are not parking in Fraser Health lots when they are not attending facilities.

The projected revenue from Fraser Health’s Maple Ridge lots for the coming year is approximately $500,000, and the health authority would like to be involved in any discussions about hospital parking fees.

The issue originally got broad media attention, including a CBC television report, and the band’s outcry brought out a chorus of support from others who support the call for free hospital parking.

One of those was local physiotherapist Gunter Rebele, who was ticketed at the hospice. He parked in an area that is designated by sign for health care professionals. When he returned approximately 20 minutes later, he had a $60 ticket. He took another look at the sign, which was almost completely obscured by vines, and saw that it says health care professionals must still purchase a parking voucher.

He sent a digital photo, which confirms the sign is obscured by vines, and had his office manager write Impark to explain why he feels he should not pay, but has had no response. He said the parking situation obviously creates a lot of frustration at a time and place when people may already be experiencing stress and anxiety.

“I understand they need funds, but there should be free parking for an hour, and if you need longer, than you pay a small fee – that’s a good compromise,” he said.

He plans to add his voice to the lobby of Maple Ridge council, and plans to either write the mayor, or appear at council when the issue is raised.

Coun. Corisa Bell advised people who have a parking ticket they are disputing to make their complaint known to the bylaws department at district hall. At the present time, bylaws staff said there are not enough parking complaints at the hospital to warrant making a bylaw change. However, Bell feels complainants are simply not contacting the municipality.

“That’s one way hospital patrons can hold Impark accountable,” she said.

She said given what happened with the Rx Rockers, and the fact that some municipalities have free hospital parking, the situation warrants a conversation by council.

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