BY NEIL GRASSO
Assistant News Editor
Sacred Heart University has altered their parking ticketing policies after a law concerning motor vehicle statues was passed by the Connecticut General Assembly.
House Bill 05312, signed by former Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy in June 2018, includes Act 15, which prohibits private property owners and lessees, or their agents, from issuing parking citations imposing monetary sanctions on owners of vehicles parked on their property, including by written warning, posted signs, or any other means.
This states legally that private property owners cannot make money by ticketing cars on their property. The act was made effective October 1, 2018.
As a result, Sacred Heart students have witnessed an influx of unregistered cars and illegal parking practices on campus over the past few months.
Arthur Natale, a senior physical therapy major, was one of the first students to hear about the new legislation.
“I don’t want to reveal the identity of the person who told me about this, but I will say that it was a Sacred Heart student,” said Natale. “I was given this information early in the spring semester.”
Natale expressed his concern for the increased number of both unregistered cars and instances of illegal parking, but strongly believes that the problem truly lies in the school’s lack of parking.
“Students need to get food or head to class and consistently end up arriving late to these obligations time after time because of the lack of parking,” said Natale.
“No student should have to be late to class because of parking or have a professor tell them to come to campus 15 minutes earlier. Most students do head to campus early and still can’t find spots.”
Natale was not alone in this belief.
“I’ve noticed that since Public Safety has not been able to ticket, many students have been taking advantage of the situation and bringing their unregistered cars from home,” said Amanda Kurz, a sophomore nursing major. “It’s making the parking situation crazy. I feel bad for commuter students because it makes it very hard for them to find parking spots on campus.”
According to a global email sent by University President John Petillo on January 15, Sacred Heart University will be constructing a new parking garage to add more spaces on campus.
The email states, “pending approvals and regulations, we will be building a parking garage in the south lot, which will add 250 new parking spaces.”
Students have mixed feelings about the announcement.
“I’ve heard for four years now that we are getting a parking garage, and now supposedly we’re getting one this May, which is going to cut out parking for students this semester while the construction is taking place,” said Natale.
Other students were slightly more optimistic.
“I think the addition of the parking garage will be very helpful for the growth of the campus especially for visitors. Faculty and students will now have a better opportunity to find parking in a quick manner,” said Katie Gallagher, a junior accounting major.
According to the act, the pre-existing law allowing private property owners and lessees to tow or render immovable (i.e., “boot”) unauthorized vehicles left on their property is still in effect after the signing of House Bill 05312.
Jack Fernandez, director of the Public Safety Command Staff, stated that the new legislation has forced public safety officials to take a different approach to parking enforcement.
“While the rules have remained the same, the lack of fines has increased the number of violations,” said Fernandez. “Solely issuing warnings did not discourage violators. As a result we have implemented an increase in our booting activity. Violator’s vehicles can now be booted if they are in violation. That booting process results in a fine.”
Fernandez also clarified that there are still circumstances in which parking violations may be punishable by fines through the Fairfield and Bridgeport Police Department. Examples of such circumstances include violations involving parking illegally in handicap and fire lane spaces.
“We, as well as other universities, are currently working with the Connecticut state legislators to modify existing law to return our ability to issue fines,” said Fernandez.
“This will help us restore some of the order to the parking situation. In the meantime, our booting procedure has begun the process of restoring order and parking safety to the campus. Parking stickers are still valid and required. Violations may still receive warnings but also can be subject to our booting process.”