It’s practically a tradition at this time of year: The snow comes, and then you dig out your car.
But what happens when you can’t dig the car out because of a disability? That was one of the puzzles the Borough Council kicked about for several minutes at its Tuesday, Feb. 3 meeting. There are 30 handicapped residential parking spaces in the borough. For those who rely on those spots, it can be a problem when the snowplow comes through.
Many of Highland Park’s streets allow parking only on one side of the street. But in cases where disabled residents have the benefit of a designated handicapped spot, legal spots may exist on “no park” side of the street. So when the snowplow comes through, the plow may leave the vehicle parked in a handicapped spot buried under mounds of snow – because it is parked on the wrong side of the street, actually the right side of the street for a handicapped spot.
That’s a situation no one on the council seemed to like, but it quickly raised the question of whether it would be a good use of the Department of Public Works resources to send crews back to dig out cars of individual residents.
It’s not an idle question. A winter nor’easter two weeks ago left only 5 to 6 inches of snow on the roads, but had threatened to drop considerably more, before it drifted east and left its load in the Atlantic Ocean. And while the National Weather Service is predicting that no more than half an inch of snow will land in the Highland Park area on Thursday, another “winter mix” event on its way Sunday.
For now at least, the best bet for motorists with a disability who are fortunate enough to have a designated spot is to rely on able-bodied neighbors, friends and family members to help dig them out if needed. Borough officials may decide they have the resources to lend an extra hand. However, municipal attorney Edwin Schmierer noted that the town has no legal obligation dig out one person on the side of the road that we wouldn’t normally plow, just because they’re handicapped.