Hays County Judge Liz Sumter’s parking spot at the Hays County Courthouse. Photo by Sean Batura.
By SEAN BATURA
Hays County Judge Liz Sumter (D-Wimberley) will lose her parking spot during the evenings after the Hays County Commissioners Court agreed to let the City of San Marcos control two inlets on the Hopkins Street side of the Hays County Courthouse during late night hours.
The court voted 4-1 to turn the spaces over between the hours of 8 p.m. and 4 p.m. The vote followed 11 minutes of deliberation to address opposition from Sumter, whose parking space is located in one of the inlets.
The city would use the spaces to accommodate bus and taxi parking during bar hours. The longer inlet, which approaches LBJ Drive, would be used for queuing taxis, while the shorter inlet, which approaches Guadalupe Street, would be used for Capital Area Rural Transit System (CARTS) buses and Texas State buses once arrangements are made for those entities to operate buses during night hours.
Sumter, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said Tuesday that the agreement doesn’t sufficiently address how the ticketing and towing of unauthorized vehicles would legally fall to the city.
“(The agreement) has no enforcement clause in it,” Sumter said. “If people were to just go ahead and park in the area that is supposed to be reserved for those hours, neither the city nor the county has enforcement power. Actually, the county could have enforcement powers if they tell their constable to get out there and tow cars and ticket. But there’s nothing in the license agreement that allows the city to enforce it … Right now there’s no enforcement except for the constable.”
Hays County Precinct 1 Constable David Peterson said constables, not city police, have the responsibility of enforcing parking policies on the sides of the street adjoining the county’s courthouse, tax office and records building. Peterson said he does not have the manpower to police the Courthouse’s Hopkins inlets from 8 p.m.-4 a.m.
Asked if the city would have authority over the inlets from 8 p.m.-4 a.m. under the agreement, Peterson said, “I’m pretty sure they would. The city has Hopkins Street either way as it is, so that’s something that has to be looked at between the County Judge and, I assume, the Commissioners Court, to work something out with them on that.”
Hays County Precinct 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe (D-San Marcos) and Precinct 4 Commissioner Karen Ford said the enforcement ambiguity could be resolved.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley (R-San Marcos) was Sumter’s most vocal critic during the deliberation. During a break in Tuesday’s court meeting, Conley said Sumter’s stated reason for opposing to the deal is her way of “looking for an excuse” to reject the license agreement. Conley said he believes Sumter opposes the license agreement because it would entail the loss of her parking space in the evening.
Sumter’s parking spot is located in the smaller inlet, over which a sign reads: “Reserved Parking Hays Co Judge Only.”
Said Conley, “If Liz has to move her car at eight o’clock, around the block, I don’t think that’s a big sacrifice to make for saving a life or helping out the city in a circumstance in which they’ve had a committee and council members work on (the agreement). So, I think the whole argument is quite funny.”
Ingalsbe and Conley co-sponsored an earlier version of the license agreement on Aug. 11 and joined in supporting its final iteration Tuesday. On both occasions, Sumter objected to the time span and amount of space proposed. Sumter attempted Tuesday to amend Conley’s motion and make only the long inlet, which does not include her parking spot, available for the city.
Sumter said that San Marcos City Manager Rick Menchaca indicated to her that he would be “perfectly happy” if the city used only the longer inlet. Furthermore, Sumter said, she and Menchaca agreed that making the spaces available from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. was “the better option,” though she conceded to 8 p.m.-4 a.m. time more than halfway into Tuesday’s discussion, after Ford signaled her support for the longer period.
“The only amendment I’d like to make is just, leave it the long inlet,” Sumter said. “That’s the only thing I’d like to change – and enforcement, as long as we can delegate enforcement to the city.”
Conley declined Sumter’s amendment, saying a conversation he and Ingalsbe had with Menchaca and San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz about a month ago was “not consistent” with Sumter’s account of Menchaca’s position.
At the Aug. 11 commissioners court meeting, Sumter proposed a 10 p.m.-5 a.m. time span, rather than the 6 p.m.-6 a.m. Conley, who supported 6 p.m.-6 a.m., accused Sumter of being overly formal with the city, which, he said, would not be in a hurry to tow county employee vehicles at 6 p.m. sharp. Sumter replied that she didn’t think there had to be a license agreement at all, mildly chastising the city for wanting one.
“The problem between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. is, we are still here,” Sumter said. “My car is in that spot. I’m just saying I don’t want to give up exclusive use for hours that aren’t necessary, because if we do need to have people offload to put up tents and chairs and things that are needed for the county, that’s where they park to do that. And so, 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. seems to be excessive. I don’t have a problem with 10 (p.m.) to 3 (a.m.), or even 10 (p.m.) to 4 or 5 (a.m.).”
Ingalsbe expressed reservations about approving an agreement on Aug. 11, when Sumter requested changing the agreement to make it more specific regarding the city’s intentions for using the inlets. Sumter advised that new language be included in the agreement to allow the county to regain use of the inlets when the need arose. The final agreement allows either the city or the county to terminate the contract with 120 days notice.Email | Print