Parking for police a hot ticket item at new Penobscot Judicial Center

CRUISERTIC story. SUBMITTED PHOTO. She does not want her name used. RICKER STORY
CRUISERTIC story. SUBMITTED PHOTO. She does not want her name used. RICKER STORY
Posted Jan. 13, 2010, at 8:15 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Parking around the new court building on Exchange Street is an issue, even for police officers who must follow the rules just like everyone else or face a parking ticket, Police Chief Ron Gastia said on Wednesday.

“We don’t play favorites,” he said. “If it’s parked illegally, they get a ticket.”

An Old Town police cruiser was given a parking ticket on Tuesday after parking a half-block from the courthouse in an area along the Kenduskeag Stream that is designated permit parking and set aside for area businesses.

There is very limited open parking around the $34.4 million Penobscot Judicial Center, which opened Nov. 23 at 78 Exchange St., and even though there is a small lot for police and officials to use directly across the street, that lot fills quickly.

The amount of public parking was a concern during planning for the new courthouse, which combines the Penobscot County Superior Court and Bangor District Court, but how the limited parking would affect law enforcement wasn’t addressed, Gastia said.

For officers who like to have quick access to their police vehicles, “it’s difficult to park half a mile away,” he said.

“We do know there is a problem,” he said. “We’re looking at ways to try to address the issue.”

Police officers and members of the public who have a valid reason for parking illegally can ask that their parking tickets be thrown out, Gastia said.

“There are times when we void tickets,” he said, adding that he himself has received and paid for parking tickets.

Pickering Square Parking Garage is available for public parking and is located across the stream from the new courthouse and is accessible by a walking bridge.

The judicial center does have a secure designated parking area for staff on the Kenduskeag Stream side of the three-story building that includes a sally port for transportation of prisoners and 28 parking spaces set aside for jurors.

The District Attorney’s Office, which has offices in the new building, pays an annual fee of $3,000 to rent parking spaces for its members.

There are several possible options on the table about how to address the parking concerns, Gastia said, adding “any suggestions people have would at least be looked at and explored.”

Any proposed changes would need to be presented to the Bangor City Council for consideration, he said.

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