ACHD and Boise at impasse over vehicle detection sensors

The highway district says the city faces fees of $10,050 per day if no agreement is reached.

cmsewell@idahostatesman.comOctober 16, 2013 

  • VEHICLE SENSOR FLAP RECAP

    The city of Boise has purchased 200 sensors at about $250 a piece; it plans to purchase an additional 600.

    The sensors are wirelessly paired with "smart" parking meters, which cost about $500 each, to send a signal whenever a vehicle enters or exits a space.

    In May, ACHD notified the city that it needed ACHD's permission to install the sensors in the roadway.

    On June 11, the city began installing the sensors without ACHD's permission. An ACHD inspector stopped the work the next day.

    Under state law, nearly all Downtown Boise streets are ACHD's responsibility; the city has control of the sidewalks, parking meters and parking revenues.

    City officials said they do not need permission from ACHD to install the sensors because the sensors are a parking function, but they agreed to enter a license agreement with ACHD. Under the agreement, the city would be responsible for maintaining the sensors and paying for any roadway damage caused.

    The ACHD Commission on July 24 voted 3-2 to grant the city the license. But on July 29, Commissioner Rebecca Arnold, who voted to approve the license, asked to reconsider the matter because she had learned new information, including an option to mount the sensors on the parking meter pole or on the curb. That step would take ACHD and its roadways out of the picture altogether.

    On Aug. 28, the commission reversed its decision.

    On Sept. 4, ACHD notified the city of Boise that it had 30 days to remove the sensors it had already installed.

    ACHD says the city can still install its 800 "smart" parking meters, which are easily programmed and accept credit and debit cards, but not the accompanying vehicle-detection sensors in the roadway.

Ada County Highway District officials say the 67 wireless vehicle detection sensors, each about the size of a hockey puck, that the city of Boise embedded in the pavement of Downtown parking meter spaces can stay through May, provided the city agrees to certain terms. If not, the city faces an encroachment fee of $150 per day per sensor.

Representatives of the city say it does not need ACHD's permission for the sensors, insists they will not damage the roadway and calls ACHD's threat of a $10,050 per day encroachment fee "excessive."

Both parties are past a deadline set by ACHD, which on Sept. 4 gave the city 30 days to remove the sensors.

"We think the law is very clear," said Jade Riley, chief of staff for Boise Mayor David Bieter. "State code does not require a license agreement."

The dispute began in June when an ACHD inspector stopped work on the sensors after the city installed 67 of them without ACHD's permission. The ACHD Commission voted in August not to grant the city a license agreement for the work because sensor technology exists that does not risk damaging the roadway. Boise officials asked if those installed sensors could remain because the city is using their data to study parking patterns. The city wants to use the data to establish a new parking meter policy regarding enforcement hours, pricing and Saturday parking.

A monthlong exchange of letters between the two entities concluded last week with ACHD offering to let the sensors stay in place through May 2014 with three provisions — the city not install additional sensors, the city indemnify ACHD against any roadway damage caused by the sensors, and the city "dispense with threats to sue ACHD."

With that offer, ACHD included a big stick.

If Boise does not agree, ACHD says it has "reluctantly" issued a notice of encroachment for the sensors under which ACHD "may remove the encroachments" and "may assess a fee of $150 per encroachment per day." Under state law for encroachments on any highway or public right-of-way (Idaho Code 40-2319), a county or highway district may "recover up to one hundred fifty dollars ($150) for every day the encroachment remained after notice, as well as costs of the legal action and removal."

ACHD spokeswoman Christine Myron said, "Upon execution of a license agreement that incorporates the commission's latest offer, the notice will be withdrawn and the encroachment assessments will be waived."

Boise City Council President Maryanne Jordan stated in an Oct. 10 letter to ACHD that the city was "disappointed" with ACHD's encroachment notice. She asked the highway district to "rescind and withdraw the notice of encroachments, and join the city in further dialogue to resolve this issue."

Riley said Tuesday the city wants to stop the back-and-forth letters and work it out face-to-face.

"There is a way to do this professionally and take the higher road and that is what we are trying to do," Riley said. "The council is committed to sitting down with ACHD and talking through these issues."

The next move is ACHD's.

"ACHD is currently assessing the city's (Oct. 10) letter, and at this time, there's no clear indication of what the commission will do going forward," Myron said Tuesday.

Cynthia Sewell: 377-6428, Twitter: @CynthiaSewell

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