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Engines off, City Hall requests

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Park City has endorsed a statement against idling vehicles, encouraging drivers inside the city limits to not keep engines running when their cars and trucks are not moving.

The Park City Council unanimously adopted an anti-idling resolution recently, siding with local activists that had been pressing for such a statement for some time. The supporters say discouraging the practice of keeping engines running will be good for the environment and further protects public health.

The resolution maintains that vehicle emissions "contribute significantly" to air pollution, a changing climate and health problems like cancer and heart and lung disease. It also says idling most vehicles for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel than turning the vehicle off and then restarting the engine.

"The City Council desires to take a proactive position on air pollution to protect the livability and viability of Park City and its residents, visitors and guests," the resolution says.

The resolution acknowledges that idling is warranted in some cases, including when emergency personnel are on a call and when a vehicle must idle to provide power, such as in the cases of police sport utility vehicles and trucks with refrigeration systems. It also makes an exception when the temperature is below 32 degrees or above 90 degrees.

City Hall rules prohibit delivery drivers from idling their vehicles on Main Street and Swede Alley.

Diane Foster, who manages City Hall’s environmental programs, said in an interview approximately 15 signs discouraging idling will be posted. They will be in "very public spots," she said, mentioning Main Street and Swede Alley as two of the streets where the signs will be put up.

The resolution is a "very public statement that we want to be idle-free," she said.

Mayor Dana Williams and the City Council approved the resolution as part of City Hall’s environmental efforts and as a citizens group was lobbying for the move.

But a resolution like the one against idling vehicles does not change Park City law, meaning that there are no penalties for people who continue to leave engines running.

Foster said the elected officials are expected to later discuss whether they want to pass a law against idling, a decision that would likely be more closely watched than the recent resolution was. If a law is passed, the Police Department would be able to ticket people for violations.

She said Williams and the City Council will probably debate whether a law is needed during their so-called visioning sessions early in 2010. The elected officials normally set a wide-ranging work plan for City Hall during the sessions.

Mary Jacquin, a leader with the group Clean Air Park City, said the organization plans to launch an anti-idling campaign that will point out the effects of leaving an engine running as well as the benefits of shutting engines down.

"It’s a simple thing to do, turn off your key," she said.

Her group had wanted the City Council to adopt a resolution and had collected nearly 350 signatures on a petition asking for a resolution against idling like the one that was passed.

"It gives us more leverage with educating the community (of) the harmful effects of idling," she said.

City Hall staffers in October issued a report about idling prohibitions elsewhere showing that there are numerous variations in the laws. Some examples, according to the research, include:

Aspen Colo., which limits idling to five minutes, with fines for violators ranging from $50 to $1,000

Ketchum, Idaho, which limits idling to three minutes and levels fines for violators ranging from $100 to $300

Burlington, Vt., which limits idling to three minutes and levels $10 fines on violators

Minneapolis, which limits idling to three minutes and levels $200 fines on violators.

Massachusetts, which limits idling to five minutes and levels fines ranging from $100 to $25,000.


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