Last week, Bassett Healthcare tried to take over two of the village’s public parking lots for the exclusive use of its employees.
The lots are on East Lake Road near the entrance to Fairy Springs Park, and Bassett put up signs that said the lots are for Bassett Healthcare staff parking only.
Bassett is short on parking for its employees and that problem was made worse when the south trolley lot was closed this spring because of the ongoing construction that is part of the Gateway Project. Bassett was left to scramble for spots for its employees while it waited for the new publicly funded Gateway lots to be finished.
Village Trustee Dr. Walt Franck, who is employed at Bassett, told Mayor Jeff Katz there were concerns about finding more parking. Katz spoke with Bassett CEO Dr. William Streck and told him there were all-day parking spaces on some village streets and there were also the two public lots at Fairy Springs.
Bassett decided to use the lots and make them its own by putting up the signage. Trustee Cynthia Falk went by the lots and reported there were signs up designating the lots as exclusive Bassett parking. “That’s not legal,” Katz said, adding that if they had requested exclusive use of the lots he would have told them that he believes it is illegal because the lots are publicly owned.
In an email, a Bassett spokeswoman said, “the sign will be modified to eliminate the word only.” But that wasn’t good enough and Bassett should have known better. Katz did know better and told them so — public property can not be taken for private use. They were welcome to use the lot, Katz said, but it could not be designated for Bassett’s exclusive use. The signs have come down and been replaced with ones that simply indicate “Shuttle Parking.”
Bassett should have been working earlier to solve a problem it knew was looming on the horizon. Last fall, Department of Public Works Superintendent Brian Clancy notified Bassett that the contract for the Gateway Project had been awarded and the lot would be closed at some point during construction.
We applaud Katz for his correct interpretation of the situation and his insistence that the lots are not for the exclusive use of anyone, including Bassett. But we remain somewhat puzzled by Bassett’s attitude. Perhaps the attitude is attributable to Bassett becoming accustomed to having its problem solved with publicly-funded parking spaces like the trolley lot.