Boise, ACHD still at odds on sensors

Each side claims the state attorney general supports its position.

cmsewell@idahostatesman.comJanuary 3, 2014 


    The city purchased 200 in-ground sensors at about $250 apiece and installed 67 of them before an ACHD inspector halted the project.

    The sensors are wirelessly paired with “smart” parking meters that cost about $500 each and send a signal whenever a vehicle enters or exits a space. Once a vehicle leaves, remaining time on the meter is zeroed out. The meters are easily programmed and accept credit and debit cards.

    The city gets about $624,000 annually from Downtown Boise’s 1,200 parking meters.

When the city of Boise embedded 67 vehicle sensors in Downtown streets without permission from the agency that owns and maintains those streets, House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, said he had concerns about the city acting “arbitrarily” and “like Big Brother.”

When Boise said state law is “very clear” that the city did not need an agreement with Ada County Highway District, Moyle decided to ask the Idaho attorney general.

“If this matter were to be litigated, it is likely that a court would find that the jurisdiction of ACHD does extend to the placement of vehicle-detection sensors in the traveled way of streets under ACHD jurisdiction,” Deputy Attorney General Chris Kronberg wrote in a Dec. 24 opinion.

Now both sides claim that the opinion confirms what they’ve been saying all along. ACHD says the city needs an agreement. Boise says it does not need an agreement, just a simple construction permit.

“The attorney general’s informal opinion validates what the city of Boise has maintained from the beginning: that ACHD has authority to require a permit for the city’s parking meter sensors,” Michael Zuzel, aide to Mayor David Bieter, said Thursday. “That is why the city’s vendor has applied for such a permit. The city has agreed to accept total responsibility for the installation, maintenance and removal of the sensors. Despite that, ACHD has yet to approve the permit.”

ACHD says there is no pending permit application because the city withdrew it. Boise says that is not true.

In August, the ACHD Commission denied the city a license agreement to install the hockey puck-sized sensors because technologies exist that “allowed sensing to occur in the meter or on the meter pole, avoiding the need to cut into the asphalt,” said ACHD spokesman Craig Quintana.

“Our take, and the attorney general’s take, is they need our permission — whether it is via a permit, license agreement or inter-governmental agreement,” he said. “At this point they do not have it."

The city purchased 200 in-ground sensors and installed 67 earlier this year. In September, ACHD gave the city 30 days to remove the sensors. Boise officials asked whether those installed sensors could remain so the city can use the data to study parking patterns and establish a new parking meter policy on enforcement hours, pricing and Saturday parking.

ACHD offered to let the sensors stay in place through May with three provisions: the city not install additional sensors, the city indemnify ACHD against any roadway damage and the city “dispense with threats to sue ACHD.”

The city did not agree. ACHD said the city could be subject to fines of $150 a day.

“The impasse stands as it has been for the last several weeks,” said Quintana.

Moyle said Thursday that he thinks the attorney general’s opinion should help break that impasse. “Boise needs to get an agreement with ACHD or it needs to get those things out of the road,” he said.

Cynthia Sewell: 377-6428

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