Should deputies, police park in front of fire hydrant? - WFLA News Channel 8

Should deputies, police park in front of fire hydrants?

If you've ever visited downtown Greeneville during normal business hours, you know parking is hard to find. You also know the Town of Greeneville doesn't mess around when it comes to giving out parking tickets, but some worry the sheriff and police departments appear to be above the law.

In the last few weeks, we've found a Greene County Sheriff's Department cruiser and Greeneville Police Department cruiser parked in front of the same fire hydrant. A viewer also snapped a separate picture of a deputy's cruiser in that same situation and mailed it to us anonymously.

The hydrant in question sits in front of the Greene County Sheriff's Department and jail. It's next to a reserved deputy parking spot, but problem is, often times two people try to fit into that one spot, which leaves the hydrant blocked.

Greeneville Fire Chief Mark Foulks says the town has an ordinance in place regarding fire hydrants for a reason.

"Our city ordinances prohibit anyone from blocking a fire hydrant or parking within three feet in any direction of a fire hydrant and that goes for everyone," Chief Foulks said. "That ordinance pertains to everyone."

Sheriff Steve Burns says there's a legitimate reason why that hydrant is occasionally blocked. According to the sheriff, there's not enough parking for his department in the downtown area. He says the spot is used by deputies who should be running in and out of the department or jail quickly. He says no one has ever complained to him about it before.

"We don't have really anywhere to park and we try to utilize what we can when we can so we free up other spaces for other people, but we're here, obviously if we have a fire, we're here, we can move the vehicle," Sheriff Burns said. "I tell officers when I hire them, 'If you're on-duty or off-duty and even in your personal vehicle, you're out here, you don't park in a fire lane, you don't do anything like that,' but here at his facility, there's times where there's just nowhere to park and we've got this designated for the sheriff's department and that's why we park there."

Sheriff Burns says there is really no alternative for his department. He says he could ask for several spots along Depot Street be reserved for his deputies, but he says that would hurt the downtown businesses by taking away spots from them, something he doesn't want to do.

Greeneville Police Chief Terry Cannon says the solution is easier for him.

"I'll make sure that doesn't happen again," Chief Cannon said of the Greeneville police cruiser parked in front of a hydrant yesterday. "I don't want my cruisers parking where they're not supposed to be parked, unless they're there for an emergency."

According to Chief Cannon, the officer responsible was helping with a search of the jail at the time.

"I asked him if he parked there and he said, 'Yes,'" Chief Cannon said. "He wrote himself a ticket and paid it."

Greeneville resident Kathy Longworth can see both sides.

"No, he shouldn't park there," Longworth said. "He should find somewhere else to park, but if he had business to do and there was nowhere else to park, then sometimes you don't have a choice. They shouldn't be above the laws either. Something needs to be done though. They need to have a place to park other than in front of the hydrant."

The town is aware of the ongoing problem with parking downtown, but there doesn't appear to be an immediate fix in the works.

"I don't think we have specific plan at this time, because we don't have a lot of area to work with, but I know our parking authority is discussing that." Greeneville Public Relations Manager Amy Rose said.

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