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Gales Creek man's questions brought issues to light

When Chris Billman met with Forest Grove officials a few weeks ago, he was upset about the city’s handicap parking policies.

But after meeting with Rob Foster, Forest Grove’s public works director, Billman believes city officials have “stepped up and are doing what they’re supposed to, and even a little more,” he said.

Billman, a Gales Creek resident, noticed some confusing

signage in the city parking lot west of Main Street a few weeks ago. After electric-car charging spaces were designated next to four permanent handicap spaces, a sign indicated that one of those four could be used either for handicap parking or electric-car charging.

Given the limited number of handicap spaces available, Billman felt that was unfair.

Foster said he relocated the spaces so there are now four spots designated solely for handicap parking.

Foster said his chats with Billman, who has a handicap parking permit, sensitized city employees to the issue.

“We need to be aware and accommodate all the driving needs and make sure the handicapped population is not overlooked,” Foster said. “Forest Grove has a significant aging population, and we need to pay attention to that.”

According to the 2010 Census, 12.3 percent of Forest Grove’s population is older than 65, compared to 9.8 percent for all of Washington County.

Based on the city of Forest Grove’s 2013 estimate, there are about 600 people living in skilled nursing and convalescent homes and resident care homes for the elderly.

The Oregon Department of Transportation does not keep records of handicap parking permits by city or zip code, but there are about 354,000 issued state-wide.

Currently, the only handicap spaces in downtown Forest Grove are on College Way.

Foster said he’s looking into adding a couple parallel spots downtown. He’s also excited about the city’s new parking lot at the corner of A Street and 21st Avenue, which will also have designated handicap parking spaces.

“This little gem came as a side benefit,” wrapped into the city’s purchase of the Times Litho building, he said.

Foster said the city will probably survey residents about parking issues at some point. Meanwhile, feedback is welcome at 503-992-3200.

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