MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- We've seen a rough winter in southeastern Wisconsin -- with a lot of days with sub-zero temperatures, and a lot of snow. All that snow is exposing a problem with parking meters in the city of Milwaukee. When FOX6 News started digging for answers, we found the city really doesn't have any. We did end up getting some citations thrown out, but countless others have to pay. Should they have gotten a break as well? You decide.
Something happens when it snows and parking meters get plowed in. The citations don't stop!
Driving around Milwaukee's Third Ward more than a week after a big snow, FOX6 News found meter after meter peeking out from the piles.
On Jefferson Street in the Third Ward, in order to plug one meter, an individual would have to literally climb a mountain.
Would you want your grandma to have to do that?
"I'm not putting money in the meter," Kara Mannor said.
Can you even blame her? Mannor walks with a cane.
"I would call it impossible," Mannor said.
FOX6's Brad Hicks found one of those with an expired meter was former state Rep. Jason Fields.
"You know, I did (plug the meter), but you actually have to climb into the snow, and if you're downtown, you're probably dressed in businesswear. You probably don't have the correct shoes to climb a snow hill or a mountain. It just makes sense that if that's what we're going to expect from our citizens, then make it convenient for them," Fields said.
So why is the city ticketing people for not plugging the plowed-in meters?
FOX6 News spent photos of the snowed in meters to Milwaukee's Department of Public Works -- the department that does the plowing and issues the parking tickets.
DPW refused to answer any questions on camera, as did the parking enforcement officer slapping down the $22 citations.
DPW did say in an email that clearing a path to the meters "is the responsibility of the adjacent property owner."
The only problem is there is no city ordinance that says that. The rule DPW cited says you have to clear your sidewalks, which includes "the entire paved surface."
DPW also said that after receiving the pictures from FOX6 News, they "cleared the area on January 10th."
FOX6 News visited the area three weeks later, and while it wasn't "cleared," it was no longer a mountain, but a hill.
DPW volunteered to void parking citations for a section of Jefferson Street for two days -- the two days before FOX6 News brought the problem to DPW's attention. 11 tickets in total were voided.
However, the snow had been piled up for more than a week by then. Who knows how many people got tickets. Apparently, DPW sure doesn't.
FOX6 News asked, and DPW said there were "no citations" issued for the really bad stretch of Jefferson Street that week. The problem is, that's not true.
FOX6's Brad Hicks received an expired meter citation on Jefferson Street on January 3rd. He took photographs of his car, the ticket and the footprints as he tried to get to the meter and ended up thigh-high in snow.
Hicks took his citation to the City Attorney's Office - poised to make his case and fight the ticket.
Other cities have policies about no parking meter tickets after it snows. The Milwaukee Fire Department implores citizens to clear snow from the hydrants, and if some of these downtown parking meters were mailboxes, the letter carrier would keep on driving.
In Hicks' case, staff in the City Attorney's Office took one look at the picture and waived his citation.
They also offered this advice: "Because of the snow we've had, if you cannot get to the meter, then don't park there."
There is no city ordinance that says "don't stay if you can't pay."
In fact, FOX6 News went back down to Jefferson Street this week after Monday's measurable snowfall. Once again, DPW had not cleared any paths to the meters. Therefore, based on the City Attorney's Office's advice, entire blocks of downtown Milwaukee are now no parking until spring.
When pressed about the "just don't park there" policy, the City Attorney's Office told FOX6 News to get in touch with the DPW. The DPW told FOX6 News to get in touch with the City Attorney's Office.
The chair of the Public Works Department, Alderman Robert Bauman says "don't stay if you can't pay" is ridiculous, and is clearly not city policy.
Your best bet at this point: If you can't pay a meter and you get a ticket, take a picture and fight it.