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Parking Meters Buried In Snow, Making Paying For Space Difficult

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Adding insult to injury from the recent storms, hundreds of parking tickets were slapped on cars near those much-hated Chicago parking meters this week.

Those tickets were issued even though the meters were, and in some cases still are, surrounded by drifts and hard-packed snow.

How can you feed meters you can't get to?

And whose fault was that?

As usual, there's more than enough blame to go around.

On Wednesday, Suzanne Daly parked her car on Southport just north of Roscoe and trudged through snow drifts to get to meter box.

She then retraced her steps through the snow to place the receipt on her dashboard.

"Now that was an ordeal," she said. "Yeah, to say the least. I got snow in my boots, but I got there and back to the car."

Who's responsible for clearing paths to meters?

The city.

Workers for JC Decaux were out in force clearing the snow and ice from bus shelters. The company leased the shelters for advertising around the city.

However, just a few feet away, meter boxes--infamously leased to Chicago Parking Meters Inc. by Mayor Daley--were still snowbound.

You could see from the footprints in the snow how drivers who'd actually paid to park in meter zones managed to get to those boxes.

Others simply ignored them, refusing to climb over or into snowbanks, risking tickets.

"It's absurd. Ridiculous. We shouldn't have to do it," said Meredith Hwang.

As for lost revenue, Chicago Parking Meters Inc. typically took in about $3 million a week, according to recent figures.

Snowed in spaces and snowbound boxes probably mean a lot less revenue this week.

And while there's a clause in the contract calling for reimbursement from the city if spaces are unavailable, there's also an "act of God" provision.

The city says it will invoke it to avoid paying.

But the city loses in fines. An average of 800 expired meter tickets are written every day.

City Hall says only about 25 percent of the normal number were written this week, and even those could be appealed due to snowbound meter boxes.

They say cellphone photos would be accepted as proof.

Of course, no one bothered to tell motorists they'd probably get a pass if they couldn't get to the boxes.

Chicago Parking Meters Inc doesn't buy that excuse. Drivers should call their help line if they can't get to the boxes, the company said in an email. Of course, the phone number is on the boxes buried in snow.

Nor is the controversial meter leaseholder buying the city's claim of "an act of God." They call it simply "a rare event" which would have to be assessed.

City Hall, for the second day in a row, said it couldn't get us figures on the cost of the storm, despite Mayor Emanuel promising a full accounting.

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