Anyone who has every received a parking ticket knows what a nuisance it is.
But what is a stone in the shoe for most of us, is insult on top of injury for Lacey Secord who keeps getting parking tickets while living in a tiny apartment downtown and caring for her baby who suffers from multiple, serious health issues.
Secord lovingly holds on to 11-month-old baby Gabriel during a visit, tickling him and calling him “Grumpy Gabe” as the healthy-looking boy giggles.
Upon hearing a stranger’s voice, the little boy’s face goes blank as he looks off into the middle distance, not making eye contact. That’s because he is legally blind, just one of many serious concerns Secord has to consider for his future.
Little Gabriel suffers from two major brain birth defects, schizencephaly and polymicrogyria, which can lead to development delays. He also has chromosome 7p duplication, which also often leads to developmental delays and intellectual disabilities.
“He may never talk, he may never walk,” the young mother says. “Or, it’s possible he will be functional.”
Gabriel also often requires an oxygen tank to breathe properly and he is fed through a tube in his stomach. And then there is the low muscle tone.
“It’s a good workout just for him to hold his head up,” boyfriend Dale Broeckx explains in their tiny apartment over shops on Wellington Avenue.
All this has been manageable for the young mother and her boyfriend, but what is causing a constant nuisance and expense is parking, which is limited to two or three hours on Wellington or anywhere near their apartment. When they need to get out to go to frequent medical appointments, it’s a big production.
“It’s a huge hassle on the best of days,” Secord says.
“When we go out there is the oxygen tank, feeding equipment, the chair, a diaper bag,” Broeckx explains. “We can’t just grab the kid and go.”
That sometimes means Secord parking her car on Wellington and, unfortunately, often getting parking tickets in the spots that only allow for two-hour parking. (Not to mention the occasional break-ins costing her even more money.)
Broeckx said he understands exceptions can’t be made for everyone who parks past the posted times, “but for someone in her position, they should cut her some slack,” adding that they were told to park on Victoria west of College, the nearest spot with unlimited street parking but a considerable walk, particularly in the winter for Secord and Gabriel.
Secord decided to dispute the first ticket, which city hall agreed to cancel. But that came with a warning that they wouldn’t do it again.
“They pretty much told us we were S.O.L.,” she said. “They said if they did it for us, they’d have to do it for everybody.”
A spokesperson for city hall confirmed there is no such thing as a disabled or handicapped parking pass on public streets.
“Currently the City does not have a policy that would allow on street parking permits to be given to individuals, so if they inquired they would have been told this information.”
At first, city hall deferred questions about parking downtown to the Downtown Chilliwack Business Improvement Association (BIA) with which the city consults on parking matters in the area.
“The BIA is funded by all property owners in the downtown, and their board of directors is made up of both property owners and tenants in the downtown. The City does not amend parking in the downtown without consulting with the BIA.”
BIA executive director Kyle Williams said while it is true the organization offers input to city hall on parking, it’s the municipality that both creates and enforces parking bylaws.
“We are never happy to hear of anyone having parking issues in our commercial downtown,” Williams told The Progress. “Together, we regularly review parking policies in the commercial core to ensure that those working in the area, their customers and the tenants above commercial spaces have the best possible access to parking. Unfortunately, there are times when standard parking options may not work for each individual person.”
Secord and Broeckx agree it isn’t a huge deal, but they wonder why something couldn’t be done in their situation.
“There has to be something they could do,” Broeckx said. “I don’t think it would take that much.”
In the end, what the couple really needs to more simply care for little Gabriel is a little apartment that comes with a parking spot.