Breaking News

Parking tickets pile up for Westmoreland Sheriff’s Department due to courthouse garage project

Parking tickets pile up for Westmoreland Sheriff’s Department due to courthouse garage project

It took five days and $300 in parking tickets before Westmoreland County reached an agreement for Greensburg parking enforcement officers to stop citing inmate transport vans for parking in metered spaces outside the downtown courthouse.

“They are adding up,” Sheriff James Albert said Tuesday about the tickets being incurred by his deputies, who drive the vans to transfer inmates back and forth from the county prison in Hempfield.

They typically parked in the courthouse garage during the day and are required to stay close in case of an emergency. But deputies were left without designated spots after commissioners last week suddenly closed the underground garage for a $7 million emergency renovation to the decaying structure. While the county is paying more than $10,000 a month to lease parking spaces throughout the city while repairs are made, none apparently were reserved for the sheriff’s department transport vans.

Albert said he didn’t have enough lead time to find a parking alternative. As a result, deputies were forced to leave the marked vehicles in metered spots behind the courthouse on Pennsylvania Avenue. As many as three tickets were left on one van’s windshield March 9, the first day the garage was closed. Additional fines were accrued over the next four work days, Albert said.

Greensburg police oversee parking laws in the city. Chief Shawn Denning did not respond to a request for comment.

The county leased more than 180 parking spaces throughout Greensburg for high-ranking employees who parked for free in the courthouse garage, deals that will cost taxpayers $10,500 a month. About 600 people work at the courthouse.

About 30 parking spaces on the lower level of the courthouse parking garage are not impacted by the closure and are still being used by county commissioners, judges and other elected officials.

Henry Fontana, chief of the Westmoreland County Park Police who was appointed by commissioners as the county’s parking czar, said a deal was reached with the city Tuesday that is expected put an end to the parking tickets.

Two leased spots in Greensburg’s parking garages were traded back to the city in return for use of two metered spots on Pennsylvania Avenue behind the courthouse. The sheriff’s transport van also will be permitted to park in front of the courthouse’s loading dock on Pittsburgh Street.

“It’s all worked out,” Fontana said.

Officials said on-duty deputies with county vehicles also have access to leased parking spots about two blocks away from the courthouse on Otterman Street.

Before the deal was reached, Albert instructed deputies to use their own spare change to park county vehicles in other metered spots closer to the courthouse.

“Everyone is being inconvenienced,” Albert said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .