PITTSFIELD -- Pittsfield residents who parked on city streets Thursday night received an unwelcome surprise on Friday morning -- their vehicles had been towed.

The city on Wednesday afternoon declared a snow emergency, banning parking on city streets between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. from Thursday night through Saturday. The Pittsfield police call log tallied 26 vehicles towed between midnight to 5:35 a.m. to accommodate snow removal operations.

"We have to be able to clear the streets, especially narrow streets." Mayor Daniel Bianchi said on Friday. He said the clearing was necessary to allow emergency vehicles to get through "for public safety."

There is a standard $90 fee for towing vehicles in the city, which is set by the state, Pittsfield Police Captain John Mullin said.

The snow emergency declaration directed motorists who don't have access to a driveway or private garage, to park their vehicles at McKay Center or Columbus Avenue parking garages.

The first floor of the McKay Center had been closed to public parking due to ongoing renovations on the first floor of the parking garage by the city. Pittsfield Commissioner of Public Utilities Bruce Collingwood, who oversees the highway department and plowing, said "because of the construction, the free parking area has been blocked off."

However, the second and third floor of the McKay Center, which is typically reserved for permitted parking was open. It appeared the city was allowing residents to park in the permitted spaces on Friday.

Collingwood said it appears the maintenance department has opened up the rest of the garage to the public. He is currently trying to find out when the first floor area will be reopened, and is looking into making additional parking outside available. He was told that the city's garage renovations would be finished by January, but they have gone past schedule.

The Columbus Avenue garage remains opened, with about 90 free parking spaces. There is additional permit spots available. Collingwood said that if the free parking spaces are filled up, the city could allow residents to use the permit parking overnight.

But even when there is no snow emergency, residents are banned from parking on city streets from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. through March 31.

"There are several storm events where we don't call snow emergencies," but plowing is still required, Collingwood said.

To reach Nathan Mayberg:
nmayberg@berkshireeagle.com
or (413) 496-6243