County considers reducing idling time
May 19, 2015
Warming up your car for an extended amount of time could eventually be a thing of the past as the Summit County Council is considering amending the county’s anti-idling ordinance.
Council members are considering tightening the county’s idling ordinance to better align itself with Park City’s policy, which was amended last month.
"The county’s current ordinance and the city’s ordinance are very similar," said Rich Bullough, Summit County Health Director. "The primary difference is the city reduced idling time from three minutes to one minute and removed variances for temperatures."
Health Department officials and representatives from the Summit County Sheriff’s Office recently met with County Council members to discuss the possibility of strengthening the county’s law. The Board of Health initially introduced the conversation during a May 4 board meeting.
"I don’t think shortening it from three minutes to one minute makes that much of an impact, but having all of western Summit County aligned under the same policy is a good thing," Bullough said.
In 2012, Summit County added an anti-idling component to the section of the county code pertaining to motor vehicles and traffic because of the effect of vehicle emissions on air pollution and residents’ health. According to the ordinance, the primary purpose is "to educate the public on the health and environmental consequences of vehicle idling." The ordinance recognizes school grounds, parking lots/garages, ski resorts and businesses centers as common areas that are prone to idling.
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The current ordinance restricts idling in unincorporated Summit County to no more than three minutes, with specific exceptions for instances where the temperature is below 32 degrees or above 90 degrees. Park City’s new ordinance, while similar, strikes the temperature variations and reduces idling time from three minutes to one.
Enforcement by each jurisdiction for the respective policies requires three warning citations before a ticket can be issued.. After receiving three warnings, on the fourth violation the owner or operator of the car is subject to a penalty similar to a parking ticket.
According to Summit County Chief Deputy Frank Smith, Park City reported 146 notifications or warning citations in 2014, but none of those warnings resulted in actual tickets.
Matt Abbott, the environmental project manager at City Hall, said the city’s approach has been an educational one, rather than a punitive one.
"I don’t think we have written one ticket," Abbott told council members.
County law enforcement officials’ main concern associated with amending the ordinance is enforcement, Smith said, because Summit County’s dispatch does receives numerous calls from residents requesting idling enforcement, he added.
"We do get a lot of calls wanting us to enforce what Park City is doing and we want to mirror them," Smith said. "But based on meetings with Sheriff Martinez, he is apprehensive as well about this. It will take significant resources to really enforce this."
The best enforcement for the Sheriff’s Office would be what Smith referred to as "passive enforcement," which would mainly include phone calls.
"We had put an email out about two months ago stating that if people’s vehicles were idling to politely tell them about the ordinance as more of an educational versus enforcement approach," Smith said. "We want our deputies off the highway and in the county, but we are also a team player and will do whatever the Council thinks is best."
Geri Essen, a promotion director for the Health Department, said while the county’s schools have been proactive in educating their drivers, increased efforts need to be spent to educate the general public.
"Passive education really helps in this process and is the key," Essen said.
No decisions were made during the meeting about amending the county’s policy. The item is scheduled to be discussed again next month. It will also require the support of the East Side municipalities.
County Council member Chris Robinson said he supports amending the county’s policy to reflect Park City’s.
However, County Council member Roger Armstrong was hesitant about the potential lack of enforcement the policy would receive.
"I’m happy to match Park City, but I think passing ordinances that we don’t enforce is weird," Armstrong said.
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