Confusion about Belmond’s new snow parking rules brought a large group of people to the city council meeting Monday night.

  The new rules allow the city to declare a “snow emergency” when two inches or more of the frozen white stuff has fallen. Such a “snow emergency” would be announced on the Belmond Independent and City of Belmond websites (belmond and belmondiowa .com), area radio stations, and on Facebook. Residents would then have to move their vehicles off the street until the snow is removed from curb to curb -- or face receiving a parking ticket.

  So far, there has not been a “snow emergency” this winter. But there was still confusion during and after the storm over the past weekend.

  JoEllen Reynolds spoke to the council on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce and Trinity Lutheran Church. She said a police officer stopped at the church Sunday morning and explained that the cars parked in the street could have received a ticket if a “snow emergency” was in effect -- but it wasn’t.

  Police Sergeant Jack Murphy replied that he went to the church as a courtesy to remind the pastor of the new snow parking rules. Church goers were doing nothing wrong since no “snow emergency” had been declared, he said.

  Apparently, some people misunderstood Murphy’s visit.

  “My officer was just giving information. That’s all,” stated Police Chief Rick McDaniel. “We want people to understand that when it snows two inches or more, they need to move their vehicles off the street until the snow is cleared from curb to curb.”

  Reynolds asked if there could be some sort of consideration for the area around the church. For example, if the snowplow could go by early or wait until after church.

  That idea didn’t gain much traction with city officials.

  Reynolds then asked about the snow parking rules downtown. She said some business owners were confused and worried about customer parking early in the morning, at 7 a.m. for example.

  City Manager Darrel Steven Carlyle said the new law states that when a “snow emergency” has been declared, it goes into effect at 2 a.m. in the downtown area -- after the movie theater and the bar have closed. It remains in effect until all snow has been removed from the downtown area.

  “Our contractor starts at 5 a.m.,” said Public Works Director Mark Dirks. “He needs Main Street cleared of all vehicles.”

  “But what if someone comes downtown to a business real early and the snow hasn’t all been moved,” asked Reynolds.

  “They can’t park downtown until the snow is gone,” replied Carlyle. “People just have to cooperate with us on that.”

  “But many of my customers come from out of town and don’t know the rules,” said one business owner. “What if they come at 9:30 a.m. but the snow hasn’t all been moved?”

  “We don’t want businesses to suffer,” added Mayor Frank Beminio, “but the streets have to be cleaned.”

  “The contractor already has had claims in past years from people who had vehicles damaged downtown by chunks of ice,” said Dirks. “He doesn’t want to damage anything. And when we have a really big snow, it takes a while to move it. People just need to cooperate.”

  Reynolds said the wording on Facebook about “snow emergencies” is confusing. Carlyle said he would talk to her about that and try to clarify the matter.

  Councilman Jon Swenson asked about notifying the public using a mass text message system, something like that available at the school.

  Carlyle said he has been looking into that, but so far has learned that the mass text message system the school uses is only available to schools. Cities can use it only at a very high cost.

  In other business, the council.... read the entire story in the Belmond Independent.